RELIEF For Colombia As Falcao’s Fit To Face Japan

 

 © The Associated Press     FILE - In a Friday, June 1, 2018 file photo, Colombia's Ramadel Falcao stands prior to the start of the riendly soccer match between Egypt and Colombia in Bergamo, Italy. With Radamel Falcao Garcia finally healthy enough to play in his first World Cup, Colombia is trying to get accustomed to handling higher expectations. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File)


© The Associated Press
FILE – In a Friday, June 1, 2018 file photo, Colombia’s Ramadel Falcao stands prior to the start of the riendly soccer match between Egypt and Colombia in Bergamo, Italy. With Radamel Falcao Garcia finally healthy enough to play in his first World Cup, Colombia is trying to get accustomed to handling higher expectations. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File)

By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer

WITH Radamel Falcao finally healthy enough to play in his first World Cup, Colombia is trying to get accustomed to handling higher expectations.

Heading into its tournament opener against Japan on Tuesday, Colombia is no longer the upstart Cinderella story they became four years ago in Brazil, when they advanced to the quarterfinals despite Falcao’s absence.

The current incarnation has a richer blend of talent and is widely expected to overmatch teams such as Japan, which recently changed coaches in hopes of addressing communication problems and bouts of inconsistency.

“We cannot fall in the trap of feeling overconfident in this match,” Colombia midfielder Abel Aguilar said.

“We are talented and we have a great team, but we must be clever at the World Cup,” Aguilar said in a FIFA interview. “We need to understand how to handle every game and have the desire to win.”

The 32-year-old Falcao hasn’t scored much for Colombia — at least not yet. But he had 24 goals in 35 appearances for Monaco during the last club season.

Colombia’s triumphs in the past World Cup included a 4-1 victory over Japan in the final game of group play. The rematch involves many of the same players, including, perhaps, attacking midfielder James Rodriguez, if his recently strained left calf doesn’t act up. But the Japanese are hoping that some different circumstances work in their favor.

“Usually the first match is hard for every team and Colombia should be no exception,” Japan defender Maya Yoshida said. “I think it will be a tight game.”

CREDIT: Associated Press

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