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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Colombia hopeful on James Rodriguez's fitness for England clash

The 2014 Golden Boot winner will be given until as late as possible to recover from leg injury he suffered against Senegal.

The fitness of James Rodriguez, right, has been a key talking point in the build-up to Colombia's last-16 tie against England. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters
The fitness of James Rodriguez, right, has been a key talking point in the build-up to Colombia's last-16 tie against England. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

Colombia remain hopeful that James Rodriguez will be fit for Tuesday's World Cup last-16 clash with England.

Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot at the 2014 tournament, has been doubtful after suffering a leg injury in his side's final group game against Senegal on Thursday.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference in Moscow, coach Jose Pekerman said: "We have had good news after his medical tests. After his MRI we know he doesn't have a serious injury."

Pekerman intends to give the 26-year-old as much time as possible to prove his fitness for the game at the Luzhniki Stadium.

He said: "We still have one-and-a-half days to see how he feels and, as always, we hope, of course, he will be able to play for the following games."

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If James is unable to play, Pekerman suggested he would again turn to Sevilla's Luis Muriel.

"Muriel is an option. He was great during the match against Senegal. He was able to change the pace, he's technically gifted and really fast. He works well with the team."

Striker Radamel Falcao, who sat alongside Pekerman at the press conference, accepts England may be regarded as favourites but that does not concern him and believes that could work out being an advantage for he and his teammates.

He said: "It is normal for people in England to think they're favourites but we want to concentrate on the weapons and skills we have.

"It is a match we have always dreamt of playing since we were young. Our players are really looking forward to that.

"We hope to be able to enjoy the game but we know we have a huge responsibility. We know we have a great opportunity."

Falcao failed to impress in spells in England with Manchester United and Chelsea but insists he does not have a point to prove when he steps on the field.

He said: "It is true I didn't shine as I wanted to but that is part of the past.

"For tomorrow's game I can only say it is beautiful to be here to play against England. All my team-mates are ready to play and give everything."

Rodriguez and Falcao are two of Colombia's chief dangers, but Pekerman insists there is more to the team in terms of quality.

He said: "We really trust both players very much - both of them have been very important for our team.

"But sometimes when they haven't been able to play we still managed to perform properly.

"Being able to stay, for many years, (high) in the Fifa rankings showed the team is quite stable, even if we don't have those players. A team is not only two players."