Colombia’s beloved 26-year-old midfielder James Rodríguez plays a crucial role for Colombia’s national soccer team. Since his debut in October of 2011, Rodríguez has scored 20 goals with 17 assists, becoming third all-time in goal scoring for the national team after Radamel Falcao and Arnoldo Iguarán. He also was the top goal scorer during the 2014 Brazil World Cup, scoring 6 goals.
But after the injury to his left leg muscle three weeks ago, James’ participation is in serious doubt for World Cup qualifiers on August 31 against Venezuela and September 5th against Brazil. Without Rodriguez, the Colombians are a different team. Nestor Pekerman has made Rodriguez the central component to on-field offensive strategy, responsible for more than half of the team’s goals.
Colombia remains in second position in the qualifying table, but their standing is precarious. The next two games are likely to define whether or not the team qualifies to play in Russia in 2018. That’s why Gabriel Jaime “Barrabás” Gómez, a former Colombian player from the 90’s, believes that regardless of the injury, Pekerman should endeavor to put James on the field.
“James scores, creates opportunities and moves the team. He should fight to have him playing until the last moment”, he said.
Hugo Gallego, a former player in Colombia’s soccer league turn coach, agreed with Gómez. He said that he is concerned that Pekerman has not developed a strategy to win without James Rodríguez.
“Even if he is important, great teams should not depend entirely on one player. Look at Barcelona, there’s not just one player to create players, but many. In Colombia, with Pekerman, we haven’t seen that.”, he said.
Not everyone agrees, however. James Rodriguez has missed 12 games during his career with Colombia, and the team is 8-2-2 during that stretch. If Rodriguez is still hurt, Giovanni Moreno or Edwin Cardona would be his likely replacements.
Dr. José Fernando Arango, Medellín’s team doctor, explained that muscular problems in the posterior section of the legs are very common among soccer players and that there’s a high risk of relapse without the proper recovery.
“Depending upon the degree of the injury, one can determine the proper course. Three weeks for recovery was indicated and have passed. However the player should return and play cautiously so that there will not be a new incident”, he said. Arango said that James would not be 100% if he plays in either of the forthcoming qualifiers.
Colombia will take on Venezuela on August 31st at 4pm local time in Estadio Polideportivo de Pueblo Nuevo, San Cristóbal, Venezuela.