El Tigre sets Copa on fire for Colombia

11 July 2011 06:30

While favourites Brazil and Argentina limp along searching for inspiration, Radamel Falcao Garcia Zarate is setting the Copa America on fire for Colombia.

With his full name a bit of a mouthful for quickfire Colombian commentators, they have simply dubbed the 25-year-old El Tigre, the tiger, in his homeland.

And after his two goals against Bolivia wrapped up top spot in Argentina's Group A his star is burning brightly - though he says Copa fans have seen nothing yet.

"We have to keep calm and continue on in this vein. we must keep our feet on the ground," the man from Santa Marta insisted after his sparkling show at Santa Fe.

"The biggest mistake we Colombians could make would be to think we've got it made - we must understand we are not yet in the final."

Falcao says he was not unduly concerned at not hitting the target in the first two games here.

"I was calm as we were making chances and I knew the goals would come eventually. It doesn't matter who gets them as long as Colombia win.

"But of course it's important to score as a goalscorer will always be judged on his tally, so I hope I bag a lot more."

Falcao came into his first major international tournament with huge expectations weighing on his shoulders after a superlative campaign with his club FC Porto, where he brillantly fed off compatriot Freddy Guarin as the team soared unbeaten to the domestic title.

The "Dragons" also won the Europa League, where Falcao hit an all-time European club record of 17 goals across the tournament in just 14 games - two more than former German star Jurgen Klinsmann?s 1996 mark of 15.

But Falcao came to prominence long before that.

He made his debut in his homeland aged just 13 for second tier outfit Lanceros Boyaca, then at 15 left for Argentina's River Plate, who soon had to fend off multi-million bids for his services.

After insisting they wanted to hold onto him River made a poor start to the season in 2009 - the start of a decline which would end culminate in a first ever relegation last month.

Porto then stepped in and snapped him up and in two seasons in Portugal he can boast a goal ratio of an average 0.86 goals per game.

With Colombia that ratio falls to nearer 0.25 but his brace Sunday to flatten the Bolivians saw him thrive in a move away from a 4-1-4-1 formation towards more of a 4-4-2 with Wigan?s Hugo Rodallega taking some of the strain.

Previously, his only competitive international goal had been in a World Cup qualifier against Peru.

Now he is starting to live up in Colombian yellow to his nickname in Portugal of Radamel Furacao (Radamel the hurricane).

One thing that Falcao, whom coach Hernan Dario Gomez describes as an "extraordinary talent," has in common with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is he has never played a league match in his homeland, leaving for River aged just 15 while Messi joined Barcelona even earlier.

And one key difference at the Copa to date is that, whereas Messi has mislaid his club form, Falcao has brought his with him with a vengeance.

Source: AFP