- *Colombia face Venezuela and Brazil in penultimate double-header *
- Second in the table, the Colombians can take a big step towards Russia 2018
- His country's all-time leading scorer, Falcao is currently in fine form
Radamel ‘El Tigre’ Falcao is back and roaring louder than ever. After standing tall as the captain and leader of last season’s surprise packages Monaco, he has spent the first few weeks of the new campaign proving his welcome return to form was no fluke.
Sitting down for a chat with FIFA.com, the Cafetero striker spoke about his flying start to the season and the secrets behind his return to form following the serious knee injury he sustained in 2014. Also on the agenda was his dream of playing at the FIFA World Cup™ with Colombia, one that could well hinge on their crucial upcoming qualifiers against Venezuela and Brazil.
FIFA.com: Last season was an amazing one for you and here you are again, with seven goals in five games already. What’s your take on this new season, with the World Cup just around the corner? Radamel Falcao: Last season was a very positive one at Monaco. We achieved the goals we set for ourselves and that’s given me lots of incentive and drive for this new season, especially with the World Cup coming up. We’ve lost a few players, but we’ve managed to maintain our consistency. And on a personal level, I feel better and better. I hope I can perform this well for the national team.
*What’s behind your return to form? Do you think you’re now playing the best football of your career? *Just working hard every day and knowing that I’ve still got room for improvement and to learn has allowed me to develop as a player. And with the experience I’ve acquired, I’ve been able to take better decisions. It’s all helped me to become a better and more complete player, someone who has more to offer the team than goals and can help build up play too, while also passing on experience when it’s needed. I feel really good and I feel confident. I’m back to full fitness and my goals-per game average is really good, which has allowed me to relax and look to the future with real confidence.
*You’ve been on a long road since picking up the injury that caused you to miss Brazil 2014. What’s kept you going through the hard times? *There were times when the easiest thing would have been to turn the page and think about something else, but I always had faith and the desire to show that I was fine and that all I needed was the chance to play regular football and get the feel for it again. My family gave me an awful lot of support too. My wife gave me a lift whenever she saw I was down and my daughters have given me even more strength to keep on fighting.
*Do you see Russia as a chance to make up for missing out on Brazil? *It would be wonderful to be there. I’ve fought and worked hard for so many years, and we’re so close now. The national team has got itself into a position where, if it can come away with decent results in these two games, it’ll be closer to Russia. I hope then to be able to fulfil that dream of playing for Colombia at the World Cup.
*There are four matches left in the qualifiers. How do you see the upcoming games against Venezuela and Brazil, when you’ll be defending your second place in the table? *Venezuela always make life difficult for us. We need to go into that game with the same mindset as them. It’s a derby for them and we need to look at it that way too, like a derby that we have to win. It won’t be easy. They’re out, but they’ll want to bring a smile to their fans’ faces. Brazil are already through but they’ll be playing for pride and they’ll be looking for more points to consolidate first place.
*Argentina are in the play-off position. Can you imagine the World Cup without them? *They’ve got a great side, but the South American qualifiers are very tight and you have to fight for everything. Most sides have still got a mathematical chance of going through and it’s going to go down to the wire. The two games they’ve got coming up are crucial for them. They can definitely qualify. It would be a shame not to have Lionel Messi at the World Cup, and a shame not to have Argentina too. But that’s football and anything can happen.
*It's been eight matches since a Colombia forward last scored in the qualifiers. As a team are you worried about that? *To be honest, we haven’t spoken about it. Obviously we’d be a lot more relaxed if the front men were scoring, but we know that to get to the World Cup you need points, no matter who gets the goals. I hope us strikers can score in the qualifiers ahead of us now and secure the points for Colombia.
*If Colombia do make it, they’ll be heading to Russia with a very different team to the one that went to the last World Cup. What do you think of the way Jose Pekerman has overhauled the side? *In the last qualifying competition, Pekerman had players who had a real hunger to play at the World Cup and a lot of experience. He shaped that team and took us to Brazil. Young players have since broken into the side and they’re coming on thanks to him. Pekerman is doing an excellent job and he’s overseeing a generational handover that I hope will culminate in our booking a place in Russia.