BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) Monaco striker Radamel Falcao has been left off Colombia's squad for the World Cup after failing to recover from a knee injury.
Coach Jose Pekerman made the announcement at a news conference Monday from the team's training facility in Buenos Aires, Argentina, dealing a serious blow to the team's chances at the tournament.
Falcao's presence had been in doubt ever since he underwent knee surgery in January. But Colombians had been hoping for a miracle recovery in time for the World Cup as Falcao posted on social inspirational messages and photos of himself taking nine-kilometer (six-mile) runs.
''We can say to all of Colombia that he did more than was within his power to play,'' said Pekerman. ''He deserved the right for us to wait and keep the hope alive.''
The 28-year-old said that as he lacks match fitness, ''the smartest thing to do'' is to stay on the sidelines. He said he still plans to travel to Brazil to cheer on his teammates.
''I had great hope to play but, well, one has to support the team from outside and wish it the best,'' Falcao said.
Falcao's nine goals in the South American qualifiers paved the way for Colombia's return to the World Cup for the first time since 1998. The team makes its debut in Group C June 14 in Belo Horizonte against Greece.
Colombia was a favorite to win the group, which includes Japan, Greece and Ivory Coast.
Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Santa Fe).
Defenders: Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Mario Alberto Yepes (Atalanta), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Pablo Armero (West Ham), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate), Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo).
Midfielders: Alex Mejia (Atletico Nacional), Freddy Guarin (Inter), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Aldo Leao Ramirez (Morelia), Carlos Sanchez (Elche), Juan Quintero (Porto), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), James Rodriguez (Monaco).
Forwards: Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate), Jackson Martinez (Porto), Victor Ibarbo (Cagliari), Adrian Ramos (Herta Berlin).