James a worry for Colombia ahead of Japan World Cup opener

Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez takes part in a training session in Kazan, Russia
AFP

Kazan (Russia) (AFP) – James Rodriguez — the top scorer at Brazil 2014 — remains a doubt for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan after missing training on Friday due to muscle fatigue.

The Bayern Munich star helped steer Colombia to their best-ever finish at a World Cup four years ago before they were ousted in the quarter-finals by hosts Brazil.

Expected to lead his nation’s challenge in Russia, James has been plagued by discomfort in his left calf since last week, when Jose Pekerman’s side left Milan following a 16-day spell in the Italian city.

James, who had a hand in nearly half of Colombia’s goals (six goals, four assists) during qualifying for Russia 2018, was absent from a training session that was open to the public in the Sviyaga stadium, west of Kazan.

Striker Carlos Bacca, who plays for Villarreal, played down fears over James and midfielder Wilmar Barrios ahead of Tuesday’s match.

“Both have a little muscle fatigue but that’s normal with the amount of work that has been done since we left Bogota”, on May 17, said the ex-Sevilla and AC Milan player.

Colombia fans, however, might have cause for concern.

James had a similar ailment in his left calf in February that sidelined him for three weeks following a Champions League clash with Besiktas.

Colombia’s medical staff are understood to be battling to make sure he recovers in time, although reports suggest Pekerman, now Colombia’s longest-serving boss, is already considering River Plate playmaker Juan Quintero as a replacement.

Although left-footed like James, Quintero’s inclusion could have ramifications for Pekerman’s tactical plans.

The 68-year-old Argentine coach usually deploys a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Monaco striker Radamel Falcao leading Colombia’s attack.

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