Written by Matt Ochs in 2013, Edited by Diego Farias in 2015
Striker; #9; 27 Years Old
One of the most interesting players in the 2014 FIFA World Cup is sure to be Radamel Falcao of Colombia. He is the principal striker for the Colombian national football team, and is widely regarded as one of the most lethal strikers in the modern game. His strengths on the pitch are many, but he is generally praised for his ability to score from unexpected positions as well as his ability to win battles in the air. Additionally, he is thought to be very strong with both feet, and his ability to curve the ball has also been recognized as deadly weapon in his arsenal of soccer skills .
Falcao got his first professional soccer experience at the age of thirteen when he debuted for Colombian club Lanceros Boyacà in 1999. His talent was immediately noticeable by the higher profile teams of the South American soccer leagues, and in 2001 he was sold to Argentinean giant River Plate for a transfer fee of $500,000 . However, it wasn’t until the 2004-2005 season that Falcao became a regular in the River Plate starting lineup. That year, he also scored his first goal in Argentina and was well on the way to crafting his legacy as one of the world’s premier strikers. In the summer of 2009, Falcao’s talents had become too large for the relatively small media market that is the Argentinean soccer league. Like many other great Latin American soccer stars of the previous 60 years, Falcao was sold to a European club. In his case, this club was Portuguese giant FC Porto . After a red-hot start to the 2009-2010 season, Falcao soon solidified his place as one of the top strikers in Portugal. By the end of his debut European campaign, he had tallied a career-high 34 goals in all competitions. The following season was in many ways a continuation of Falcao’s immaculate form. During the Europa League campaign of the 2010-2011 season, he trampled German legend Jürgen Klinsmann’s scoring record by totaling 17 goals in 14 games .
In the summer of 2011, after Falcao had just extended his contract with Porto, he was sold to the Spanish football club Atlético Madrid. The €40 million transfer fee made Falcao the most expensive player in the Spanish club’s history. Fortunately for Los Rojiblancos, the Colombian striker lived up to his goal-scoring reputation. After the 2011-2012 season, he had scored 36 goals for the club in all competitions, which set the club record for a player in his debut season . It was only Atletico Madrid that Falcao gained notoriety throughout Europe for his technique and clinical nature in front of goal. The 2012-2013 season proved to be more of the same for Falcao, as he led Atletico to a Copa Del Ray trophy (defeating archrivals Real Madrid in the finals), and netted several goals along the way . Particularly, in the Copa Del Ray finals, Falcao was able to step beyond the role of a traditional striker in the sense that he proved he could function as a playmaker, not just a goal-scorer. This ability to assume playmaking responsibility on the pitch is another key component of Falcao’s game and is one of his key strengths.
Following his dominant performance in the 2012-2013 campaign, Falcao shocked many by being sold to nouveau-riche club AS Monaco . Thus far in the French League 1 campaign, Falcao has been in impressive form and currently leads the league in goals scored.
National Team Involvement
Falcao got his first start for the Colombian national team in 2005. His first major tournament was the 2005 U-20 World Cup, but he also participated in the South American Youth Championship that same year. As his reputation grew, it was only a matter of time before Falcao got his first call-up to the senior national team. In fact, he made his international debut in 2007, and later that year had his first international goal against Montenegro. In 2009, Falcao had his first goal in a World Cup qualifying match against Peru . Though the Colombian team didn’t end up qualifying for the 2010 South African World Cup, Falcao was still able to assert himself as a valuable striker on an international scale. Throughout Colombia’s qualification matches for the 2014 World Cup, Falcao proved he was able to lead a team by being a serious goal-scoring threat as well as harnessing his playmaking ability.
Many would argue that Falcao is the most talented and highest-profile player on the Colombian national team, which makes him a clear candidate for 2014 World Cup “players to watch” list. His unique ability to take over a game and create a sense of momentum for his team rivals that of the all time greats like Pélé and Maradonna. Furthermore, Colombia has one of its strongest squads in many years, featuring many skilled soccer players on marquis European clubs. Because of their projected success in the tournament (relative to previous years), Colombia- not just Falcao- should be on every soccer fan’s radar. It will also be interesting to note how Falcao’s debut season in the French League 1 will pan out, and how this will affect his international form. Regardless, Colombia will be a team to watch, and their leading striker Falcao will largely determine how the team fares in the World’s most prestigious soccer tournament.
Falcao in the 2014 World Cup
Unfortunately, after sustaining a season-ending injury in January of 2014, Falcao was not called up to Colombia’s 23 man squad. An anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained during a French league cup game forced Colombia’s manager to find alternatives to the former Atletico Madrid Striker . In the end, Pekerman opted for River Plate striker Teófilo Gutierrez, who only scored one goal in 5 games. The absence of a reliable center forward allowed for the Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez to step up and become one of the best players of the tournament, scoring the most goals with 6 in 5 games, and leading Colombia to the quarter finals for the first time in the country’s history.
After the World Cup, he was loaned out from Monaco to Manchester United. Still affected by the injury sustained in 2014, Falcao has had a lackluster debut season in the Premier League, scoring only 4 goals in 17 games .
How to cite this article: “Colombia: Radamel Falcao” Written by Matt Ochs (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).
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