With an impressive record of more than 70 goals and seven titles with Portuguese giants FC Porto, it is easy to understand why Colombia’s Radamel Falcao has been attracting so much attention at the Copa America 2011. The former River Plate forward made a slow start to the tournament, failing to score in his first two outings, but that all changed rather emphatically on Sunday.
Falcao needed just 28 minutes to net his brace against Bolivia and put the match beyond doubt. With the win, Hernan Dario Gomez’s Cafeteros go through to the quarter-finals as runaway winners of Group A. “I’d missed scoring goals in Argentina, where I spent eight-and-a-half years and where things went very well for me,” said Falcao after the match.
“I’m happy that I was able to score and help the team,” he continued, before adding: “I think the press went a bit over the top talking about our lack of goals. On a personal level, I was happy with the chances the team was creating. It was only a matter of time before a goal came”.
Falcao’s first strike after 14 minutes was a trademark finish. After latching on to a through ball, the Santa Marca native looked up and coolly placed a left-foot shot across the body of Bolivian goalkeeper Carlos Arias. His and Colombia’s second came from the penalty spot. “It doesn’t really matter who scores the goals. The important thing is to grow and become stronger as a team,” said the forward, who is now the tournament’s joint-top scorer alongside Peru’s Paolo Guerrero.
Strength in attack and defence
Aside from their star striker hitting form, Colombia have a number of reasons to be positive after successfully navigating the group stage. Their solid defensive displays are perhaps the most encouraging aspect, with Los Cafeteros keeping clean sheets in all three of their matches in Group A. No mean feat, considering first-choice goalkeeper David Ospina was ruled out of the tournament just a few days before Colombia’s opening match.
With two wins and a draw from their three games, and a tally of three goals scored without reply, Colombia's statistics are nothing if not impressive. Coach Gomez agrees, and said: “We secured first place in the group with great authority. I really believe in this team”.
Despite the encouraging signs, Falcao warns against overconfidence as Colombia head towards the business end of the tournament. “Many of the national side’s past mistakes came from an excess of confidence and thinking that we were the best,” said the Porto marksman, who won the South American U-20 Championship with Colombia in 2005. “Our goal is to make the Colombian people happy, but we’re still not in the final. We know we’re not the best and that there’s still a lot of room for us to improve.”