Colombia’s star forward Radamel Falcao won’t be playing in the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, due to his knee injury. Falcao has been left off the 23-man roster that was submitted to FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, on June 2.

“We can say to all of Colombia that he did more than was within his power to play,” Coach José Pékerman told reporters at a media conference at the team’s training facility in the Argentine capital. “He deserved the right for us to wait and keep the hope alive.”

Javier Aquino is heading to the World Cup for Mexico, replacing Luis Montes, who broke his right leg during a friendly against Ecuador on May 31. (Ezequiel Becerra/AFP)
Javier Aquino is heading to the World Cup for Mexico, replacing Luis Montes, who broke his right leg during a friendly against Ecuador on May 31. (Ezequiel Becerra/AFP)

Falcao, 28, underwent surgery after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his club team Monaco’s 3-0 French Cup win at Chasselay Monts d’Or Azergues on Jan. 22.

Falcao, who said he will travel to Brazil to cheer on his teammates, called Pékerman’s decision “the smartest thing to do.”

“I had great hope to play but, well, one has to support the team from outside and wish for the best,” Falcao told reporters.

Falcao’s absence is a huge blow to Los Cafeteros, who have qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1998. Falcao scored a team-high nine goals during CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying to lead Colombia to a second-place finish behind Argentina.

Now, Colombia is hoping Teófilo Gutiérrez (five goals in qualifying) and James Rodríguez (three goals) can fill the huge void left by Falcao, who was optimistic he would play in the World Cup before determining he just wasn’t physically fit enough to compete against the world’s best players.

Pékerman called the decision to leave the man nicknamed “El Tigre” (The Tiger) off the roster “the saddest day I’ve had since becoming Colombia coach.”

Colombia has a very daunting Group C schedule, as it faces Greece at Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte on June 14 before playing the Ivory Coast at Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasília five days later. Los Cafeteros conclude group play on June 24 against Japan at Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá.

Colombia’s 23-man World Cup roster

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragón (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Santa Fe).

Defenders: Camilo Zúñiga (Napoli), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Mario Alberto Yepes (Atalanta), Cristián Zapata (AC Milan), Pablo Armero (West Ham), Éder Álvarez Balanta (River Plate), Carlos Valdés (San Lorenzo).

Midfielders: Alex Mejía (Atlético Nacional), Freddy Guarín (Inter), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Aldo Leão Ramírez (Morelia), Carlos Sánchez (Elche), Juan Quintero (Porto), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), James Rodríguez (Monaco).

Forwards: Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Teófilo Gutiérrez (River Plate), Jackson Martínez (Porto), Víctor Ibarbo (Cagliari), Adrián Ramos (Herta Berlin).

Mexico promotes Javier Aquino to replace the injured Luis Montes

Midfielder Javier Aquino said he’s ready to represent Mexico at the World Cup when he was promoted to the 23-man roster after Luis Montes broke his leg in El Tri’s victory over Ecuador on May 31.

“Unfortunately, it is due to the injury of a teammate and that I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” Aquino told reporters. “One always wants to get on the squad by doing one’s own work, but at the end of the day, this is what happened.”

Montes broke his right leg in two places after colliding with Ecuador’s Alejandro Segundo Castillo late in the first half during Mexico’s 3-1 win at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in the U.S. state of Texas.

“A few were crying, tears in their eyes. It was a tough situation,” Mexico Coach Miguel Herrera told reporters when asked about how his team took Montes’ injury. “Right now, we’re not thinking about the next games. Right now, we want to have a good talk with the players. It’s an unfortunate situation, and we have to keep moving forward.”

While Montes returned to the Mexican city of Guadalajara for surgery, Aquino prepared to depart from his Spanish team, Villarreal, to join El Tri for its final friendlies before heading to Brazil.

Mexico played Bosnia-Herzegovina at Soldier Field in the U.S. city of Chicago in the state of Illinois on June 3 before facing Portugal in Gillette Stadium, in the city of Foxborough in the U.S. state of Massachusetts on June 6.

In Brazil, El Tri is in Group A, opening against Cameroon at Estádio das Dunas in Natal in June 13 before facing Brazil at Estádio Governador Plácido Castelo in Fortaleza on June 17 and Croatia at Arena Pernambuco in Recife on June 23.

“Mexico can surprise at the World Cup and we want this to be the time to do that,” Aquino told reporters. “For Mexico, I will always have great expectations, we must aspire to win and transcend.”