Records are there to be broken, or so the saying goes, and how River Plate forward Radamel Falcao Garcia would love that to be true. The Colombian has been in fine form for the underperforming Millonarios over the last season, scoring no fewer than 15 goals between domestic league action and the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana. Yet the hard-working and aerially adept front-man has still to find the net for his country in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, a barren run he is keen to end against Argentina in River's Estadio Monumental on 6 June.
"It's odd that I've not scored yet, though I've not had too many clear chances either," he told FIFA.com in Buenos Aires. "Forwards live for goals, that's what we do. But it's a team game and a lot of the time we rely on the midfielders and the other players too. We've been short of luck at some key moments."
Having scored just six goals in 12 qualifiers so far, Colombia are the South American Zone's joint-lowest scorers alongside Peru. Even so, they are just three points behind fifth-placed Uruguay, who are currently in line for a FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off. "Our campaign so far hasn't been the best," said the 23-year-old. "We started well and picked up several points but we're paying the price for a few drawn games that have kept us out of the top spots. We've now got no choice but to win all our matches."
Honour and respect
The first of Colombia's remaining six matches is the aforementioned clash with Diego Maradona's Albiceleste in Buenos Aires, where Falcao arrived eight years ago to join the River youth ranks. "It will be a very special match. Not only did I come to this country at a very young age, but it has changed me both football-wise and socially. I even sometimes speak like the people here now," said the player.
All this affection will be put to one side on 6 June, however, when coach Eduardo Lara's charges aim to pull off a qualifying double over the Argentinians, having already won 2-1 in Bogota in November 2008. "It's great to have the chance to play in my home stadium," continues Falcao of the meeting in the Monumental. "Games between Argentina and Colombia attract a lot of interest and it will be a good game to catch the eye."
"Let's hope I can score the winner for Colombia, it would be a real honour," says the Cafetero goal-getter. "Would I celebrate that goal? Of course! But I'd do it respectfully, I mustn't forget that Argentina is my second home. It opened its doors to me and has given me everything. Scoring would give me mixed emotions, that's for sure," adds Falcao, whose wife Lorelei is Argentinian, though also with mixed loyalties. "At this stage, my wife almost feels Colombian herself, she might even prefer it if we won!"
I can still remember the Colombian side that played at France 1998. I watched those games with my mates and used to dream of being a part of it.
‘Every footballer's dream'
Falcao is also sure to encounter a host of familiar faces in the Argentinian capital, whether they be stadium staff, River officials or fellow players such as Albiceleste keeper Juan Pablo Carrizo. "We lived in the club digs together when we were boys and we go back a long way," he said of the ex-River shotstopper, now in Serie A with Lazio. "But well, both of us will try to do the best they can for their team," continues Falcao, who also once shared a dressing room with former Millonarios Martin Demichelis and Javier Mascherano.
"Argentina are a very compact and solid team, with excellent players. But we need to do our jobs and stay calm. If we do things right, we'll get chances to score. What will count is having the composure to take them," said a player who scored against his adopted homeland at the South American U-20 Championship in 2005.
Another confidence-boosting fact is that Colombia are the only team to have beaten the Albiceleste on home soil over the last 16 years. And they did so in emphatic fashion, their memorable 5-0 success on 5 September 1993 being Argentina's last defeat at home in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
And picking up all three points again, whatever the scoreline, would do the up-and-coming Colombian's chances of playing at next summer's showpiece no harm at all. "Playing at a World Cup is every footballer's dream, it would bring me so much. It would be great to compare myself with top-class players and to progress for the future," said Falcao as the interview drew to a close.
"I can still remember the Colombian side that played at France 1998. I watched those games with my mates and used to dream of being a part of it. That team were knocked out after the first round, but there wasn't much in it. I'd love to set the record straight (in South Africa)."