Having Lionel Messi at the 2018 World Cup does not make it easier to take the pain of not having Alexis Sanchez and Chile there.
After Chile won two successive Copa America titles in 2015 and 2016, I could have bet they were going to disrupt the status quo of Brazil, Argentina and Germany at the World Cup in Russia.
Just at the Fifa Confederations Cup in June, it was plain for everyone to see the tenacity and will power with which Chile played. It was such a delight to watch them (even though they were not Barcelona) grind out results with sheer brutal force and determination.
They had become a force to reckon with in world football. In fact, it is hard to trace back and find the moment when things fell apart for Chile. Well, that is football for you.
Colombia nearly sweated blood in Lima, when Peru was relentlessly attacking them, looking for a winning goal. And until, as it is alleged, Colombian skipper Radamel Falcao asked Peru to go easy, Colombia would have been finished.
The media has been awash with suggestions, that Falcao urged (as video footage shows) the Peru players to relent on their attacks, and settle for the 1-1 draw. This is because the result benefited both teams’ cause for a World Cup berth.
Falcao’s actions have been construed as corrupt. But at the same time, it pointed to how humanity and natural instinct supersede all the football boundaries, upon which football rivalries take centre stage.
Brazil would have no reason to hate Chile. Yet, the former went about their responsibility with sheer brute, to dispatch their visitors 3-0, and end their chances of being in Russia next June. Brazil will be applauded for that level of professionalism; they could not even extend Chile a wink.
But Falcao’s gestures appeared like he was begging for clemency from the Peruvians. While he is unlikely to admit to such a thing, let alone the Peru team, the possibility of that happening is not far-fetched. Human instinct has it to feel compassion towards someone in dire straits.
Although in a spate of intense rivalry, you doubt how much one team can subdue its overriding desire to unleash the sucker punch, and instead offer a hand that saves the other from drowning. It is not easy.
For starters, if Peru had maintained its onslaught towards the Colombia goal area, they were likely to score a winner, which would have seen them qualify automatically, and not have to wait for the play-offs against New Zealand.
That is another inconvenience which would have been avoided by winning Tuesday night. Essentially, this creates doubt on whether, indeed, the Peru players could have heeded Falcao’s request, well aware that an outright win would, instead, have placed them above Colombia, who would be preparing for the play-offs now.
It does not add up, unless the suggestion is that Peru did not know the permutations as aforementioned, which I doubt. But it would be foolhardy to think that Falcao did not try to sway Peru players to do tColombia a favour at a point when their tongues were about to drop.
Here is the thing: being that the Brazil and Chile fixture was goalless at halftime, the feeling was that anything could happen. If Chile won the game, they would have 29 points. And if Colombia lost, they would remain on 26 points.
It would mean that both Peru and Chile would be above Colombia, who would miss out on the World Cup altogether. But probably after learning that Chile were two goals down midway the second half, Falcao knew that Paraguay remained their biggest threat.
Paraguay, who were hosting bottom-placed Venezuela, were largely expected to win that one. That would get them to 27 points, one above Colombia on the table, had the latter lost to Peru.
Colombia’s World Cup hopes would be dashed at the expense of Peru and Paraguay. Based on that premise, Falcao probably had cause to make a rallying call to their opponents to spare them the indignity of not being at the World Cup.
That should make him a person of interest to Fifa. And supposing Falcao begged the Peru players to take it easy on them, wouldn’t that be a case of high-level match-fixing, where there is no money involved like we have grown accustomed to but words that induce compassion?
That is definitely a matter for Fifa to look into.