Colombia will be a dark horse at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, with the South American nation’s 30-man preliminary squad for the tournament loaded with exciting attacking talent.
With the likes of James Rodríguez, Juan Quintero and Fredy Guarín providing chances for their array of forwards, José Pekerman’s side will be one of the favourites to qualify for the knockout rounds from Group C.
The nation has been given a real boost by the inclusion in the squad of one of the world’s most lethal strikers, Radamel Falcao.
The Monaco forward suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury back in January while playing for the French club and was a major doubt for the competition.
However, it now appears that the former Atlético Madrid marksman will be available to play after making a quicker-than-expected recovery.
After a 16-year absence from world football’s biggest competition, hopes are high that Colombia can excel this summer.
With Falcao leading their line the side will be a danger to any opponent, with the 28-year-old proving himself in recent years as merciless in front of goal.
His partnership in the World Cup qualifying campaign with River Plate attacker Teofilo Gutiérrez heralded 15 goals, and Colombian fans will hope the strike pair can continue this clinical trend in Brazil.
However, with Falcao obviously being rushed back for the tournament and set to have little-to-no competitive fixtures under his belt before Colombia open their campaign against Greece on June 14, playing him is a risk.
There is the obvious threat that he could well perpetuate a serious injury, while he will certainly not be his razor-sharp self in front of goal.
Coach Pekerman will face pressure to select Falcao from an expectant fanbase, but the potential for leaving him out and deciding on another option should also be seriously considered.
If Colombia had no reliable back-up options, a half-fit Falcao may well have been their best chance of success. However, this is definitely not the case.
With Gutiérrez looking guaranteed to feature in the starting XI, there are three excellent options to play alongside the Argentina-based attacker.
Jackson Martínez has excelled at Falcao’s former club Porto since moving to Europe in 2012 and is widely regarded as a player that is set for a big-money move to one of the continent’s top teams in the not-too-distant future.
Although the 2013-14 season was not as fruitful in front of goal for the Porto man as his debut campaign, a return of 45 league goals in two years shows he has what it takes to fill Falcao’s shoes.
Adrián Ramos has not been afforded the regular chance to start for his nation despite being in the squad since 2008, but signs are that he is ready to step into the breach also.
The Hertha Berlin poacher netted 16 Bundesliga goals this term for his club and has since been signed to replace Robert Lewandowski at Borussia Dortmund. A player on form, Ramos should also be in Pekerman’s thoughts.
The 27-year-old has continued his prolific form in front of goal in La Liga from his Club Brugge days, scoring consistently for his new club as Sevilla’s main striker.
Consideration of Martínez, Ramos and Bacca will be complemented by the potential option for talented attacker Luis Muriel to play as a second striker, despite the Udinese man having a tough time of it over the last couple of months in Italy.
There is no doubt that fit and on-form Falcao is a matchwinner and Colombia’s talisman. However, if the Monaco star is not 100 per cent ready to return, Pekerman has a number of excellent options to take his place that could be just as lethal.