Star man James Rodriguez is now facing a race against time to be fit for Colombia’s Group H curtain raiser against Japan in Saransk at the Mordovia Stadium on Tuesday. The 26-year-old has been struggling with a calf strain for over a week and will now undergo a last-minute fitness test before Colombia manager Jose Pekerman decides if he will play.
Colombia would be in a little trouble should James not be able to go, but earlier reports that were scoffed at, may hold a little more weight.
Alarm bells started ringing when Colombia trained without their star man at their luxurious ski resort base on the banks of the River Volga near Kazan last Thursday. Official word from the Colombia Federation confirmed Rodriguez had opted to skip training with a ‘muscle strain’ and instead chose to spend the morning in the gym.
While the 2014 Golden Boot winner returned to training on Friday, he trained apart from the main group and is understood to still be feeling pain in his left calf. He was unable to train properly in Colombia’s final session on the eve of the game, and a fitness test revealed he’s still struggling with the injury.
While official details coming out of the Colombia camp are sketchy at best; a calf injury caused James to miss two games for Bayern Munich in February after battling Besiktas.
In addition, James has struggled with calf injuries going back as far as 2014 when he missed two games for Real Madrid. In 2016, he missed six more games due to a calf injury per Transfermarkt. With that history, there is definitely valid reason for Colombian concern.
Who would step in?
The contingency plan, while not awful, is still likely not to be as productive as James would be.
Gifted left-footed playmaker Juan Fernando Quintero would step in for Rodriguez, while ex-Manchester United and Chelsea striker Radamel Falcao, who is Colombia’s all-time top scorer with 29 goals, will make his World Cup debut at the age of 32 after cruelly missing out four years following an ACL injury in the run-up to the tournament.
The injury to James, is just the latest of tough luck for the Colombians, who will already be missing left-back Frank Fabra.
Colombia’s World Cup preparations already suffered a serious knockback on the eve of the tournament when first-choice left back Frank Fabra ruptured his ACL and was ruled out of World Cup.
We expect James to at least attempt to play in this one, but the Colombian has proven to be a bit injury-prone over the course of his career. According to Transfermarkt, James has missed 43 club games due to various injuries while competing for Real Madrid and Bayern since December 2014.
For Colombia, hopefully this is something he can work through effectively without missing any time in the group stage.
UPDATE (7:55AM EST): James is officially not starting
Colombia’s star player could not give it a go and is not starting. With this type of injury, it will be interesting to see if he plays at all.