Falcao’s hopes to play in World Cup 2014 get another boost

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Three weeks ago, we were all assuming the worst about Radamel Falcao, and with good reason. We’ve seen enough players go down with major knee injuries to know a six-month recovery is just too ambitious to assume.  So when the key to Colombia’s hopes at this summer’s World Cup hurt his knee on Jan.  22, we entertained the worst-case scenario. How could the Cafeteros survive this summer without the biggest star?

It’s a question that may never have to be answered. According to today’s reports, Falcao has emerged from the first phase of his recovery with reason for optimism, with the surgeon who performed his Jan. 25 surgery giving the Monaco number nine “a 55% chance of playing in the World Cup.”

Via its website, AS Monaco issued an update on their star striker’s status:

Radamel Falcao finished successfully today the first phase of the recovery further to the operation of the left knee.

AS Monaco FC and the player would like to thank all the people who took care of Falcao to Porto, in particular the medical department of Doctor Jose Carlos Noronha and club of FC Porto.

Radamel Falcao is going to pursue from this Thursday the 2nd phase of his recovery in the sport clinic in Madrid in close collaboration with the medical department of AS Monaco FC.

Colombia’s first game at World Cup 2014 is June 14 against Greece. To be match shape by kickoff in Belo Horizonte, Falcao’s going to have to be ready, playing friendlies, and training weeks before that. Given he had surgery at the end May, we’re talking about a turnaround that’s closer to four months than six.

But let’s also be clear about what we’re talking about here, because implicitly, the conversation is going in two directions:

  • Will Falcao play this summer? As in be a bench option for José Pekerman? Somebody who can be available off the bench by the team’s last group stage game against Japan on June 24 (potentially, the team’s final match). This is a much lower bar. It doesn’t require full match fitness, which means he won’t have to be training weeks ahead of the tournament. If the only goal we’re talking about is merely playing at this summer’s tournament, he doesn’tt have to start training until early- or mid-June. That’s a much lower standard than …
  • Will Falcao be Falcao this summer? Obviously, this is a long shot, but for Colombians, it should be the biggest concern. The team also has Jackson Martínez (and we talked about the other options while fixating on Fredy Montero’s chances of making the team), but when you look at the goal rates Pekerman’s options have produced on the international level, Colombia has Falcao, Teo Gutierrez, then a huge drop off. Talent, they can replace. Producing with that talent? That’s a much higher bar, one that makes the nature of Falcao’s recovery as important as his mere availability.

The good, if implied news: Falcao seems to have a chance, which is more than we thought three weeks ago. Even in  May, we still won’t know if the Monaco star will be ready for Brazil, but if the odds in mid-February are 55/45 in Falcao’s favor, Colombia has hope for their World Cup future.

Hazard, Lukaku help Belgium to rout

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard each scored a pair of goals and Michy Batshuayi also scored as Belgium clobbered Tunisia 5-2 in Moscow on Saturday.

Dylan Bronn and Wahbi Khazri scored for Tunisia.

Belgium leads the group ahead of England’s Sunday match against Panama.

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Romelu Lukaku led an early break that led to a Thomas Meunier shot collected by Tunisian keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha.

Eden Hazard won a penalty in the fifth minute, just inside the 18. He converted the chance low and to the right of Ben Mustapha.

Ben Mustapha was fortunate when Hazard’s 12th minute shot of a terrific Lukaku pass was substandard.

Lukaku then scored a beauty in the 16th minute, sent into the 18 by Dries Mertens, when he clinically slid a shot inside the far post.

Tunisia got a surprise answer a minute later, with three goals gracing the games first 18 minutes. Bronn turned a free kick past Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.

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https://twitter.com/TelemundoSports/status/1010498221116801024

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Belgium was knocking on the door for most of the half, and a wobbly Kevin De Bruyne missed Lukaku with a stoppage time cross which should’ve led to a third.

Lukaku got his third courtesy of Meunier a moment later.

Hazard scored his second after the break, and Youri Tielemans assisted Batshuayi’s marker to round out the scoring for Belgium. Ex-Sunderland man Khazri scored late for Tunisia.

VIDEO: Wild first half in Moscow sees Lukaku, Hazard on board

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Romelu Lukaku (2) and Eden Hazard scored for Belgium before Dylan Bronn answered for Tunisia, as dominant Belgium holds a 3-1 lead with three goals gracing the games first 18 minutes on Saturday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Lukaku led an early break that led to a Thomas Meunier shot collected by Tunisian keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha.

Hazard won a penalty in the fifth minute, just inside the 18. He converted the chance low and to the right of Ben Mustapha.

Ben Mustapha was fortunate when Hazard’s 12th minute shot of a terrific Lukaku pass was substandard.

Lukaku then scored a beauty in the 16th minute, sent into the 18 by Dries Mertens, when he clinically slid a shot inside the far post.

Tunisia got a surprise answer a minute later when Bronn turned a free kick past Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Lukaku would chip the keeper after Meunier played his perfect run to feet.

https://twitter.com/TelemundoSports/status/1010498221116801024

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Enrique has rare brain tumor removed, faces battle

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Former Newcastle and Liverpool defender Jose Enrique is now an agent, but the headache that came with a manager meeting had nothing to do with the conversation.

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Enrique had a “brutal” headache following a meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton, his former manager, and tests revealed a rare brain tumor (Spanish language link).

Enrique underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and now faces 35 sessions of radiotherapy, only available in two European cities.

He lost more than a dozen pounds in a single week, calling it “the toughest time of my life.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

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Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’s schedule in full.

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2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE