Radamel Falcao’s hunger and will are Colombia’s crucial assets heading into the Copa America, according to former international Carlos Valderrama.
Colombia enter the continental tournament in brilliant form, their only two losses in their past 20 fixtures both coming at the hands of Brazil.
They have conceded just twice in their seven-match winning run, and while Valderrama – who represented Colombia 111 times – credited their team balance, it was former Manchester United man Falcao, who was key to their fortunes in Chile.
Falcao has scored in four of those seven wins, including in their 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica on Saturday – their final competitive fixture before their Copa begins against Venezuela in Rancagua on Sunday.
“This is a balanced work and I think this team have it in all their lines,” Valderrama told a news conference on Wednesday.
“That’s why the senior players that have left the team have been replaced with very good quality young guys that are playing in Europe and have shown their quality to be part of the Colombian team and that’s what we want – as a football player, to represent his country, this is a beautiful opportunity.
“But I think this team came with a goal and with a reinforcement, a good one that missed the World Cup and he is Falcao.
“He came with hunger and willing to show [his quality], and also to confirm that he is back and for the Colombian team that is a huge relief because we are going to have goals in a good moment.”
Colombia’s 2014 World Cup star James Rodriguez filled the void left by Falcao in Brazil.
Rodriguez scored in all of Colombia’s five matches at the World Cup, tallying six goals – and Valderrama claimed the 23-year-old’s level did not drop when he arrived at Real Madrid at the start of last season.
The left-footed attacker scored 17 goals in all competitions in his first season in Spain.
“James has shown and confirmed that he is the kind of player that could disappear [after the World Cup] but it’s still alive with him,” Valderrama said.
“The season that he just did with Real Madrid, he has confirmed what he had done during the World Cup; that any coach has to have [him].”