James Rodriguez doubtful for Colombia’s World Cup 2018 opener vs Japan

first_imgColombian star James Rodriguez may not start for Colombia when they begin their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign against Japan on Tuesday.Rodriguez had set alight the Brazilian soil four years ago with his six goals, that helped Colombia reach the quarter-finals. He had won the Golden Boot for being the highest scorer of the tournament.Rodriguez, along with Radamel Falcao, is the key for Colombia if they are to advance from the group.However, as the Colombians prepare to begin their Group H battle against Japan, Rodriguez is a doubtful starter.2018 FIFA WORLD CUP: FULL COVERAGEThe 26-year-old had missed a training session in Kazan on Friday due to muscle fatigue and his left calf has reportedly been the trouble.Even as the Bayern Munich man did train at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk on Monday, the state of his fitness was unclear.”We are waiting to see what the doctors will say after the last check,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman told a news conference.Also read – World Cup: Saudi Arabia players safe after plane engine catches fireGreat expectations have been placed on Rodriguez as the spearhead of the best generation of Colombian players since the 1990s. He won over many neutral fans in Brazil for his spectacular style — and his salsa-dance goal celebrations.But his club performances since 2014 have been inconsistent and he is currently on loan to Bayern Munich from Real Madrid.Pekerman insisted several other players could step up to the mark should Rodriguez not take the field on Tuesday.advertisementAlso read – Earthquake at home, false alarm at hotel disturb Japan’s World Cup team”We always wait until the very last minute before we decide,” Pekerman said.”World Cups are played after a very heavy season. It is true some players arrived here in Russia not feeling very comfortable. They have all improved very much, even if some of them are a little tired.”One ace up his sleeve is striker Radamel Falcao, Colombia’s all-time top scorer. “El Tigre” is raring to make his World Cup debut, having missed the 2014 tournament through injury.Pekerman mentioned Jose Izquierdo, Juan Quintero and Mateus Uribe as potential match winners.Also read – World Cup 2018: FIFA investigating homophobic chants by Mexico fans”We have enough players for all alternatives,” he said. “Our team is much richer, much stronger (than in 2014). We’ve got much more flexibility.”If Rodriguez’s absence would disappoint Colombia’s legions of fans, it would be a relief to Japan coach Akira Nishino.Colombia walloped Japan 4-1 in the group stage in 2014 on their way to the quarter-finals, with Rodriguez among the scorers.”He is almost like a symbol of the Colombia team, a points-getter, a mood-maker,” Nishino said. “It is difficult to mark him. Who is going to mark him? The whole of the team. We cannot give him time or room….he is everywhere on the pitch.”With Colombia ranked 16th by FIFA and Japan 61st, “Los Cafeteros” (the Coffee-makers) are favoured to win. But Pekerman made clear he was not under-estimating the Blue Samurai and their quick, fast-breaking style.Group H, which also features Poland and Senegal, is one of the more open of the tournament.”We think Japan is going to be a very tough team. We have completely forgotten what happened in the last World Cup,” said Pekerman, an Argentine who has managed Colombia since 2012.”In the short term our main aim is to go through to the next stage. The group phase is really tough. We’ll see what happens this time. We hope to be at least as good or better than four years ago.”(With Reuters inputs)last_img read more

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