Tuesday 15 November 2016, 10:25

Pekerman: Argentina know Colombia can hurt them

Jose Pekerman has urged Colombia to capitalise on Argentina’s problems and weighed up the possibility of starting Falcao in their crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier. Four matches without victory have plummeted La Albiceleste to sixth, two points and three places beneath Los Cafeteros.

“Argentina are struggling and we have to take advantage of this situation,” said Pekerman. “We know what Messi, Di Maria and these players can do when they’re at their best, so if we don’t put in the required performance, we know they’ll hurt us. But the same goes for Argentina – they’ll be worried about what we can do. Colombia can beat anyone and everybody knows it.”

Pekerman believes the race for South America’s four automatic tickets to Russia is wide open, but he remains confident Colombia can claim one.

“You take it game by game,” said the 67-year-old, who coached his native Argentina – and their current players Messi and Javier Mascherano – at Germany 2006. “Negative situations can be reversed from one game to the next. The most consistent team in this campaign has been Uruguay. Brazil have had an extraordinary last . Aside from those two, we’re all in a similar situation.

“Colombia have been inconsistent. We’ve had lots of ups and downs. We’re fighting to qualify but staying humble. Our chances are the same as the others teams’, but we’re very optimistic.”

Falcao tempter That optimism will be heightened if they get a result in San Juan. And with Colombia’s forwards having struggled to score goal in recent qualifiers, could Pekerman be tempted to unleash Falcao on Argentina from the outset? The 30-year-old, who has been ravaged by injuries in recent years, came on at half-time in the goalless draw against Chile last Thursday to play his first international in over a year.

“He’s doing well, but this is not athletics,” explained Pekerman. “Football is about continuity, getting in the rhythm of playing and getting matches under your belt. For the first game we felt it would have been a risk to start him. Now that he has had more days to recover we’ll evaluate how many minutes he can play.”