Three major stars are dominating the headlines ahead of the FIFA World Cup pre-tournament training sessions, varying in fate, form, and readiness for their respective countries. Colombia’s Radamel Falcao, Brazil’s Neymar, and Argentina’s Lionel Messi go into the World Cup carrying some form of baggage, adding a dash of drama or hope to their country’s tournament hopes.
When Falcao went down with injury, Colombian fans were heartbroken. His absence has been felt by both club and country, after he suffered an ACL injury in January. His World Cup chances seemed to fade away almost immediately, but four months on, it seems the 28-year-old forward could make a miraculous return for the big event.
Falcao’s surgeon, Jose Carlos Noronha, told Portuguese news service Lusa that while he doesn’t expect Falcao to be 100 percent fit, he can see him making the final World Cup roster for Colombia. That news will be a welcome boost for Colombia, since Falcao was more than instrumental in their World Cup qualifying effort.
Should Colombia stick around after the group stages, Falcao could be healthy enough to feature. It’s still too soon to tell if Falcao can have any impact in the World Cup, but that glimmer of hope still shines, and for now, that’s good enough for Colombian fans.
Brazilian supporters are in a similar boat. Their superstar forward Neymar has been ruled out for four weeks with an injury as well. Neymar is a key figure in F.C. Barcelona’s starting XI, often playing as a left-winger. In the Copa del Rey final, Neymar played a solid 90 minutes, missing a chance at the dying moments to equalize, but a foot injury has ruled him out for the rest of the La Liga season.
Or so the team feared.
Neymar gave an update, addressing the elephant in the room – would he be fit for the World Cup?
“I always had a bit of fear that the injury would force me to stay out of the World Cup,” Neymar said to Globo TV. “Within the next three weeks I’ll be back and I hope to play Barcelona’s last game.”
Plenty of time, then, for Neymar to return, but in his absence, Lionel Messi needs to step up and see the team to a few wins. Unfortunately, something’s not quite right with Messi these days. He has hit a dip in form and looks to be unhappy at his long-time club, Barcelona.
It all started when Messi was moved away from center forward and used as a left-winger. He wasn’t pleased with the decision. Since then, Messi has been in poor form, logging less than 7 km of running time in his last appearance.
Messi was once considered unsellable but this season, his status as indispensable at Barcelona has changed, to a point where a move to Manchester City is actually a possibility.
Messi’s status as a top forward in La Liga has also faltered. Between Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Diego Costa, La Liga’s other players have seemingly surpassed Messi’s output and influence on the field.
Still, the sentiment for Argentine fans is that Messi’s frustrations and poor form start and end at Barcelona. For Argentina, these fans expect a rejuvenated Messi, motivated to win the World Cup on Brazilian soil. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen. What’s certain is that Messi will need to put his Barcelona woes behind him if he is to find success with Argentina this summer.
Falcao, Neymar, and Messi represent their respective nations’ best hopes for World Cup success. Each comes into the tournament with a few hurdles to overcome. But, as the tournament approaches, these players will shift their focus onto the international scene.
As always, anything can happen in a World Cup, miraculous recoveries, freak injuries, and everything in between.
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