- Associated Press - Friday, May 30, 2014

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Colombia is still hoping it will be able to count on striker Radamel Falcao when it plays in the World Cup for the first time in 16 years.

Falcao has been working hard to recover from a knee injury that has put his participation in doubt. If he doesn’t heal by the time the World Cup arrives, it will be up to 22-year-old James Rodriguez, Falcao’s teammate at Monaco, to carry the hopes of Colombian fans.

With or without Falcao, Colombia has a solid squad that cruised through South American qualifying, finishing second only to Argentina in the nine-team group. Its defense was the best in the region, led by veteran Mario Yepes.

Here are five players to watch:

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RADAMEL FALCAO

He is by far the biggest name in Colombia’s squad, but it remains uncertain whether Radamel Falcao will be able to showcase his talent in Brazil.

The striker who joined Monaco from Atletico Madrid tore left knee ligaments in a French Cup game in January.

Colombians have all their hopes pinned on Falcao’s recovery, knowing that if he can play the team’s chances of surprising in this year’s tournament increase significantly.

Nicknamed “El Tigre,” the 28-year-old Falcao has remained optimistic about his chances of making it to Brazil, saying that his knee has been improving day after day. But it won’t be known until the eve of the tournament if his recovery was successful.

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JAMES RODRIGUEZ

Talented midfielder James Rodriguez will be arriving at the World Cup in top form.

Rodriguez successfully took over the scoring role at Monaco after Radamel Falcao got sidelined because of a left-knee injury in January.

Few will question what Rodriguez can do as a playmaker, but he has also been able to show that he can be extremely effective as a goalscorer.

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