Colombia will give James Rodriguez until the last minute to prove his fitness for Tuesday’s World Cup last-16 tie against England.
The attacking midfielder, on a two-season loan at Bayern Munich from Real Madrid, was substituted during Colombia’s 1-0 defeat of Senegal on Thursday and there were initial fears his tournament may be over.
A subsequent statement from the Colombian FA revealed a positive update, saying the 26-year-old had suffered “a minor edema [swelling caused by an accumulation of fluid] in his right leg” and head coach Jose Pekerman refused to rule him out of the clash at Spartak Stadium.
He said: “We had good news after his medical tests. After his MRI we knew he doesn’t have a serious injury so we have one and a half days to see how he feels and as always we hope that he will be able to play.”
James did not take part in the early stages of the team training session on Monday – instead doing some exercises by the side of the pitch – but Pekerman insisted there is more to Colombia than the 2014 Golden Boot winner and captain Radamel Falcao.
“Both of them have been very important for us but when they’ve not been able to play we still managed to perform properly,” he added.
“We’ve been classified as one of the best 10 teams in the world in the FIFA rankings even if now we are a bit further down.
“Being able to stay there for many years shows the team is quite stable even if we don’t have those players. That shows our team is competitive and a team is not just two players.”
Este martes 3 de julio la Selección Colombia se enfrentará a @England por un cupo a los cuartos de final de la @fifaworldcup_es Rusia 2018. El encuentro se jugará en el Spartak Stadium de Moscú a la 1:00 pm hora en Colombia.
#MiCorazónTricolor #Rusia2018 pic.twitter.com/6AfMOTb7Nv
— Selección Colombia (@FCFSeleccionCol) June 30, 2018
With qualification secured, England rested eight players for their final group game against Belgium, a luxury not afforded to Pekerman, although the 68-year-old believes that may turn out to be a positive for his side.
He said: “A team that can rest players has a certain advantage. It’s true that the World Cup has many games and not that many days to recover so this is obviously an advantage.
“On the other hand, this gives us an important opportunity because we have played very tough matches until now, decisive matches and these have made us stronger.
“We believe in ourselves and we realise we’re very strong. We are very confident so this will compensate if the other team has been able to rest more, even if they are favourites with good players.”
The obvious England threat will come from Harry Kane, and Pekerman is a fan of the Tottenham striker.
“Harry is a great player, he’s a great goalscorer and he’s playing very well,” he said.
“He’s one of the top goalscorers in the world so we need to be careful with him. We need to avoid giving him opportunities because when you have a forward like him he’s very difficult to stop.”
Falcao will lead the line for Colombia but dismissed suggestions he had a point to prove to English fans after disappointing spells at Manchester United and Chelsea.
“It’s true that I didn’t shine in England, but that’s part of the past,” the striker said.
“Now we are going to play a last-16 tie against an amazing team. We are in a good place and we need to do what we have been doing until now, step by step.”
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