Pekerman dedicates Colombia win to ‘deeply affected’ Sanchez after death threat report

Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman dedicated his side’s 3-0 win over Poland to Carlos Sanchez and spoke about the “hard time” the midfielder endured after being sent off in their previous World Cup game.

Sanchez was dismissed after just three minutes of Colombia’s Group H opener, which ended in a 2-1 defeat to Japan that prompted criticism of Pekerman’s team.

Colombia bounced back with an impressive victory over Poland courtesy of goals from Yerry Mina, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado, while Sanchez served his one-match ban.

Pekerman was asked about reports Sanchez had received alleged death threats that evoked harrowing memories of Andres Escobar’s murder in the aftermath of scoring an own goal at the 1994 World Cup.

Pekerman told reporters: “We received certain information but to confirm such a thing, I can’t speak to that.

[embedded content]

“The player was deeply affected by this matter and we all understand that football is something else. It is a game and we play with a lot of hard work and dedication but these things shouldn’t even be said lightly.

“Whether it’s confirmed or not, this is something that’s extremely painful.

“This victory is dedicated to Carlos Sanchez, because he has had a very hard time these last few days. We achieve this victory and I want to share it with him. I’m expressing it personally but it’s something that all the squad feels.”

Pekerman hailed the performance of striker Falcao, who scored his first World Cup goal and became the first player to net 30 times for Colombia.

“I think this is one of the greatest joys we received tonight,” said the 68-year-old. “He is a symbol of the national team and of Colombian football.

“We always hope that he can score, that he can be fit as he was today. We want to help him as a team so he can show all his skill and shine.

“That he scored was hugely important not only for today’s match but for future matches.”

Article continues below

Looking ahead to Colombia’s final group game against Senegal, from which they will likely need a win to guarantee their passage into the knockout phase, Pekerman said he was aware the African side – who are a point ahead of his team in the table – may play for a draw.

He said: “I’m sure Senegal has its own style but we’ll stay true to Colombia’s style.

“We’ll do what we can to break those strong and fast Senegal players. It’s true they might play more defensively but with this victory we’re going to have more faith in ourselves.”


Poland 0 Colombia 3: Falcao’s maiden World Cup goal revitalises Pekerman’s side

Radamel Falcao scored his first World Cup goal as Colombia revived their hopes of reaching the World Cup knockout phase with a 3-0 victory over Poland, who now cannot reach the last 16.

Monaco striker Falcao stroked home his 30th international goal, making him the first player from Colombia to reach such a milestone, midway through the second half of a cagey encounter in Kazan, where defeat for either side would have meant elimination from the competition.

Barcelona defender Yerry Mina scored the opener, powering a header beyond Wojciech Szczesny five minutes before half-time to enliven the contest, and it was the creativity and industry of Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez that picked apart Poland’s tightly stitched seams.

The presence of James, fully fit again after a calf injury, vastly improved Colombia’s link-up play following a below-par performance in their opening 2-1 defeat to Japan, and he provided the assist for Cuadrado to add a third goal that put the game well beyond Poland.

Victory leaves Jose Pekerman’s side on three points in Group H, one point behind co-leaders Japan and Senegal ahead of their crunch match against the latter on Thursday.

Poland will have a role to play in deciding the fate of the group when they take on Japan, but ultimately head coach Adam Nawalka can have few complaints about being dumped out of the competition after two games in which his side failed to provide talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski with adequate service.

The first ever meeting between these two sides began with a number of heavy challenges at both ends of the field that prevented the game from developing into an early rhythm.

Colombia started to dominate the midfield and launched attacks down the right flank through Cuadrado, but the Juventus winger failed to penetrate a packed Poland defence.

Nawalka’s side set their stall out to avoid falling behind as they did in the first half of their 2-1 defeat to Senegal and Colombia’s chances of breaking their resolve were hit by an injury to Abel Aguilar, who was taken from the field on a stretcher in the 32nd minute and replaced by Mateus Uribe.

But shortly after Cuadrado came alive, running at the Poland defence and starting a move that culminated with an exquisitely weighted cross by James that was met by the head of Mina, who lost his marker to head over Szczesny’s outstretched arms and into the net.

Juan Fernando Quintero fired wide from 25 yards as Colombia started the second half brightly and Cuadrado then squared to Falcao on the edge of the box, but the Monaco striker lifted his shot well over the crossbar.

The isolated Lewandowski’s first real chance of the game arrived in the 58th minute when he controlled a long pass brilliantly only to shoot straight into David Ospina’s midriff as Poland attempted their first shot on target of the game.

Having survived that scare, Colombia came to life and Quintero’s superb slide-rule pass presented Falcao with a one-on-one situation and he expertly guided the ball past Szczesny with the outside of his right foot to double his side’s lead.

With 15 minutes left on the clock, James’ pass from the left found Cuadrado in space through the middle and he took a touch before applying an assured finish into the bottom-right corner of the net.

Colombia almost added a fourth after a mix-up between Jan Bednarek and Szczesny, but Uribe’s backheel was cleared off the goal line to leave the final score 3-0.

Key Opta stats:

– Poland are the first European nation to be eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.
– Colombia have won three of their last five World Cup meetings with European sides (W3 D0 L2), having won none of their first five against UEFA nations (W0 D2 L3).
– Across the last two World Cup tournaments (2014 and 2018), no player has scored more goals (6) or provided more assists (4) than Colombia’s James Rodriguez.
– Colombia’s victory means there has still been no goalless draw after 32 matches so far at the 2018 World Cup, the longest wait from the start of a tournament without one (no 0-0s in 26 games in the entire 1954 tournament).
– Three of Yerry Mina’s four goals for Colombia have been headers.
– Juan Cuadrado has been involved in six goals in seven World Cup appearances for Colombia (two goals, four assists). He scored his second World Cup goal today, exactly four years after netting his first (24th June 2014 vs Japan).
– Radamel Falcao scored his 30th goal for Colombia and first at a World Cup. He is Colombia’s all-time highest goalscorer.


Falcao and James join injured duo in Colombia’s World Cup squad

Colombia have named stars James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao in a World Cup squad that includes injured pair Abel Aguilar and Cristian Zapata.

Deportivo Cali midfielder Aguilar, 33, and AC Milan defender Zapata, 31, both received the nod from head coach Jose Pekerman on Monday despite facing fitness problems.

They missed the 0-0 friendly draw with Egypt on Friday, but the Colombian Football Federation confirmed the experienced duo had “intensified” their rehabilitation in an attempt to be ready for Russia.

Zapata’s availability means there is no place for Santa Fe youngster William Tesillo, while long-serving forward Teofilo Gutierrez also misses out.

Falcao’s inclusion will be particularly pleasing for Pekerman after the Monaco striker missed Brazil 2014 due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

[embedded content]

Instead, he heads to his first World Cup looking to help improve on a quarter-final exit last time out, and with the likes of James, Juan Cuadrado and Davinson Sanchez also involved, Colombia are considered a threat to the favourites.

Their Group H opponents are Japan, Poland and Senegal.

Colombia’s final 23-man World Cup squad in full:

Goalkeepers:  Jose Cuadrado (Once Caldas), David Ospina (Arsenal), Camilo Vargas (Deportivo Cali);

Article continues below

Defenders: Santiago Arias (PSV), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors), Yerry Mina (Barcelona), Johan Mojica (Girona), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan);

Midfielders: Abel Aguilar (Deportivo Cali), Wilmar Barrios (Boca Juniors), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Jefferson Lerma (Levante), Juan Quintero (River Plate), James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich), Carlos Sanchez (Espanyol), Mateus Uribe (Club America);

Forwards:  Miguel Borja (Palmeiras), Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Jose Izquierdo (Brighton and Hove Albion), Luis Muriel (Sevilla).


Falcao flattered by Milan interest as summer move is mooted

Radamel Falcao says it is “an honour” to be linked with AC Milan.

The 32-year-old, who scored 24 goals in all competitions for Monaco last season, is gearing up for Colombia’s World Cup campaign and featured in their 0-0 draw with Egypt on Friday.

His preparations threaten to be overshadowed, though, by increasing speculation suggesting the Italian giants are set to make a move for him during the off-season.

While Falcao admits he has been a long-time admirer of the Rossoneri, his focus for now remains solely on the World Cup.

“I have already said that it’s an honour they are thinking of me,” he said after the draw with Egypt.

[embedded content]

“Milan are one of the best clubs in the world and I’ve always been following them but, for now, as I said, I have a contract with Monaco and I’m comfortable there. I feel loved there.

“We need to see their plans and their project but I’m focused on the World Cup right now. I will analyse everything once all this is finished.

Article continues below

“I’m keeping myself out of it. I’ve seen what the media says about it. I have a contract and right now I’m just thinking about the World Cup.”

Colombia face Japan, Poland and Senegal in Group H of the World Cup, starting with a clash against the Samurai Blue in Saransk on June 19.


Bacca backs Mina after shaky Barcelona start sparks Liverpool transfer talk

Carlos Bacca expects Colombia team-mate Yerry Mina to defy the doubters and thrive in European football despite making a slow start to life at Barcelona.

Mina made the switch to La Liga in January after developing into one of the most highly-rated centre-backs in South American football.

Barca paid Brazilian club Palmeiras a reported €12 million (£11m/$14m), but Mina only featured in five league games before the end of the season as he failed to dislodge Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti.

Speculation is mounting he might be allowed to leave in the close-season, but the World Cup offers Mina the opportunity to star on the big stage.

And Villarreal striker Bacca expects the 23-year-old to ultimately prove a success.

[embedded content]

“He is a great centre-back,” Bacca told Marca. “For Barcelona to notice him when he is in Brazil says a lot.

“I have no doubt that he will succeed in Europe because he has more than enough quality. It’s not easy to get to a club like Barcelona.

“He is adapting with his failures and successes, but the desire to work is not lacking. With his work and faith in God, he will achieve his successes.”

James Rodriguez Falcao Colombia

Bacca is expected to be part of a talented Colombia squad in Russia and he is pinning their hopes of producing an upset on Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez.

“Falcao has done a lot for the country, at all levels,” said Bacca. “He is a fundamental person for the national team and for Colombia. We owe him a lot.

Article continues below

“James is a leader, a player different from everyone, but he is also very competitive. He does not like to lose anything.

“He always wants to improve. We are very grateful for all that he contributes to the national team.”

Colombia start their campaign on June 19 against Japan.


Falcao blasts refereeing ‘disgrace’ in Coupe de la Ligue final loss to PSG

Monaco striker Radamel Falcao described the performance of referee Clement Turpin in Saturday’s Coupe de la Ligue final against Paris-Saint Germain as “a disgrace”. 

The holders claimed the trophy for the fifth year in a row thanks to a 3-0 win in Bordeaux, with Edinson Cavani scoring in each half either side of an Angel Di Maria strike.

Cavani’s first came from the penalty spot after a lengthy VAR review, in which Turpin appeared to change his mind about awarding a spot-kick only to go back to his initial decision after checking a replay.

Falcao then saw a goal disallowed for offside with the score at 2-0, although even VAR’s footage showed the decision was a close call.

[embedded content]

And the Colombia forward pulled no punches in his assessment of the decisions after Monaco’s second final defeat in a row.

“Paris were more efficient,” he told Canal Plus. “After that, there was the referee.

“For the sake of French football, what the referee did tonight was a disgrace.”

In the mixed zone after the game Falcao continued to express his frustration with the VAR process.

“It’s frustrating when in two cases where there has been VAR, it has served to help PSG,” Falcao said. 

Article continues below

“Sometimes, after looking at the images, nothing is clear and this kind of thing can kill football.

“PSG are very good but they needed the video referee to help them to beat us.”

Monaco will have little time to dwell on their disappointment with a Ligue 1 clash against Rennes to come on Wednesday.


France 2 Colombia 3: Quintero completes stunning comeback in Paris

Colombia fought from 2-0 down to beat France 3-2 in Friday’s friendly match in Paris, with Juan Quintero netting the winner from a controversial late penalty.

The midfielder fired in five minutes from time at the Stade de France following goals from Luis Muriel and Radamel Falcao, after the home side had led through Olivier Giroud and Thomas Lemar.

France started with Paul Pogba on the bench but named an otherwise attacking line-up, with Lemar, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Giroud in attack, and the Chelsea striker broke the deadlock with his 30th goal for his country after an error from David Ospina.

Lemar blasted home a second at the end of a sublime counter-attack, but Colombia hit back two minutes later, with Muriel’s cross curling into the far corner of the net.

The goal seemed to shock the hosts, who suddenly looked uncertain on the ball and survived two close calls through Muriel before Falcao buried his side’s second just past the hour mark.

Samuel Umtiti’s lunge on Jose Izquierdo allowed Quintero to complete a famous comeback, leaving France with plenty to ponder before they visit World Cup hosts Russia in their next match on Tuesday.

The speed of France’s wide players caused plenty of problems for Colombia early on, and it was no surprise to see the opening goal come from an overlapping run down the left from Lucas Digne.

The Barcelona full-back latched onto Lemar’s quite brilliant throughball, before sending in a low cross that Ospina fumbled into the path of ex-Arsenal team-mate Giroud, who gratefully fired high into the net.

Lemar doubled the lead 15 minutes later at the end of a delightful counter-attack. Griezmann backheeled Djibril Sidibe’s path to Mbappe, who skipped into space and teed up his old Monaco team-mate to rifle into the right-hand corner from inside the penalty area.

Colombia hit back barely two minutes later, though, as Muriel’s cross from the left of the France box curled into the corner, with Hugo Lloris wrong-footed by Davinson Sanchez’s attempt to reach the ball.

Griezmann was denied by a good Ospina block but the goal seemed to have unsettled the home side, and Muriel missed a great chance three minutes into the second half after being picked out in space by Carlos Sanchez.

The Sevilla striker then robbed Raphael Varane only for Lloris to make a good save, as Didier Deschamps became increasingly animated on the touchline, evidently perturbed by his side’s second-half performance.

His shouts did not have the desired effect. With 62 minutes played, N’Golo Kante cheaply conceded possession 30 yards from the French goal, Carlos Sanchez fed James Rodriguez and his cut-back was swept home by Falcao, who was unmarked 12 yards out.

Pogba – winning his 50th cap, like Griezmann –  and debutant Wissam Ben Yedder were promptly introduced, and the former took little time to make an impact, stinging Ospina’s palms with a dipping effort from 25 yards out.

There was also a first appearance for Lucas Hernandez, on for the injured Digne, but it was Quintero who proved to be the hero, dispatching his spot-kick with aplomb after Umtiti was harshly penalised for a challenge on Izquierdo, despite having made contact with the ball.


Monaco 2 Montpellier 0: VAR intervenes but Falcao’s brace decisive

Radamel Falcao scored a brace as Monaco defeated Montpellier 2-0 on Wednesday to book a Coupe de la Ligue final against Paris Saint-Germain.

The Colombia international was on target twice in the first half of the semi-final at Stade Louis II, where Montpellier struggled to respond, despite twice benefiting from the intervention of the video assistant referee (VAR) system.

Holders PSG overcame Rennes 3-2 a day earlier, and this result set up a decider between Ligue 1’s reigning champions Monaco and the runaway leaders from the capital in Bordeaux on March 31. 

Even if they do spring a surprise in a rematch of last season’s showpiece, success in France’s secondary domestic knockout competition would be small consolation for a Monaco side who are fourth in the table, trailing PSG by 12 points after being stripped of several key players who were crucial to last term’s unexpected title triumph. 


MLS teams could be after Falcao in 2018

MLS became the “retirement league” for top european players after they can’t keep the tempo at the top clubs in Europe. Even though more and more players now go to Asia or Middle East because of the better financial offer, that doesn’t mean we won’t see good players from Europe choosing to finish their careers in the MLS.

The one reason is that they are more aware of the fact that the fast and physical style in MLS is good for them after they can’t follow the tempo in top european clubs. This is what former Barcelona playmaker Xavi said to when he talked about why he decided not to go to MLS. This happened with Andrea Pirlo as he didn’t impress at New York City FC.

You can’t wait anymore until noone wants you in Europe and expect to come to MLS and dominate, as the MLS is growing, but if you choose to leave Europe’s top level with some gas still left in the tank, like David Villa did, then you can success. Villa has been amazing for New York City FC since he came from Spain 3 years ago, he could possibly earn a return to the Spanish national team.

Everyone expected that Cristiano Ronaldo could once finish his career in MLS, but his form continued and success as well of trophy collecting with Portugal and Real Madrid in the past two years has helped keep him on the “Not time for MLS yet” list. As much as it once seemed 100% that Ronaldo could end his career in North America, now it feels more like a long shot.

Plenty of amazing stars have looked destined to play in MLS only to never make the jump. Ronaldinho, Xavi, Ronaldo and even newly-elected Liberian president George Weah have been leading players in the MLS transfer news only to see those rumors fail.

Then there are all the rumors that did become true, such as of David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Kaka and Didier Drogba.

So who are some of the big stars that MLS clubs could consider trying to get to MLS in 2018? Some of them are: Iniesta, Rooney, Ibrahimović and Falcao. William Hill have predicted that Falcao could change the club in the near future if we consider his team’s odds on the current league he’s playing.

The player who was previously linked to an MLS move before continuing his career in Europe, Falcao is enjoying an excellent form at AS Monaco, and may be in no hurry to leave to MLS at the age of 31.

The Columbus Crew were linked to Falcao 2 years ago, and it would make sense again if the Crew decide not to keep Ola Kamara. Gregg Berhalter’s team is looking after Uruguayan striker Santiago Garcia, but if they’re still interested for a star forward by the summer, perhaps the Colombia striker would be a good fit.