Falcao stands a titan in both stature and in skill.
His is a game made simple through the art of goal scoring. Falcao is a towering and mobile forward who made his name in Spain before making his money in the French league with A.S. Monaco.
The scene, a French Cup encounter against fourth-tier side Monts d’Or Azergues. Falcao had already scored one goal in the game, one of many he had scored all season. Monaco fans weren’t overly excited – this was, in truth, a routine win against inferior opponents.
Yet tragedy often strikes in the throws of routine.
Falcao picked up the ball and went about one of his trademark runs, bursting by defenders and leaving them in the dust. Normally, Falcao’s earned space would yield an attempt at goal, only this time Monts defender Soner Ertek took matters into his own hands.
Ertek came in with a sliding tackle that brought Falcao to the ground.
The bigger you are, the harder you fall.
Immediately, it became clear that something wasn’t right. Doctors rushed to the field and Falcao’s worst fears were confirmed.
His knee was busted.
Taken off and heading to hospital for further tests, Monaco went on to defeat Monts 3-0. Sure, it was a victory on paper but the team and its fans left feeling the pains of a loss.
Later, it was confirmed that Falcao had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He would require surgery. Recovery time for an injury like this is six months, at least. Even then, there is no guarantee of form and fitness.
Effectively, Ertek brought Falcao’s World Cup dreams to a close. Fans in Colombia issued death threats to Ertek, who, in truth, did not deserve them. Injuries happen in football. World Cup dreams are often dashed.
Take, for example, Arsenal winger Theo Walcott. Earlier this year, Walcott was the talk of the Emirates stadium, such was his form on the field. He notched goal after goal and became the team’s most on-fire performer. Against Tottenham in the FA Cup, Walcott’s World Cup dreams were also given a rude awakening.
He, too, tore his ACL. His World Cup with England is also over.
Walcott rejected a “quick-fix” solution offered by some doctors – a good thing, too.
These kinds of injuries take time to heal, not a scalpel.
The World Cup is an event that highlights the very best talent around the world. Sometimes, some of these top talents are left in casts and crutches, watching the grand event from a couch at home.
England supporters are no strangers to this kind of heartbreak.
In 2010, both Rio Ferdinand and David Beckham missed out in the final roster due to injuries. Ferdinand was captain at the time, a blow to the team’s formation and tactics in the backline.
Beckham’s injury, though, was a symbolic devastation. He had worked tirelessly with A.C. Milan and with the Los Angeles Galaxy for a spot in the World Cup. When other players were on vacation, Beckham was training, practicing and playing.
Then, Beckham took one wrong step, entirely unchallenged, and pop went his Achilles tendon.
A World Cup dream over, just like that. Beckham was left in tears.
It would be the last World Cup this iconic English international could have played in. He stood, instead, on the sidelines, dressed in a suit and tie while his teammates – his friends – wore the white shirt of England.
The same can be said of German midfield legend Michael Ballack. He, too, missed his land chance in the big show in 2010, when he picked up an injury before the World Cup.
Falcao and Walcott are this year’s offering to the unfortunate curse of injury, one that stings even worse in a World Cup year. It is the greatest shame in world football.
Now they embark on the journey to recovery and face the challenge of patience. These two players must wait four years once more until the next World Cup, more determined than ever.
Their stories do not end in 2014.