By BARRY HATTON
2014-01-26 03:01 AM
PORTO, Portugal (AP) -- Colombia striker Radamel Falcao is in a race against time to get fit for the World Cup in June after undergoing knee surgery Saturday, with his doctor giving him a better than 50-50 chance of making it.
Falcao, known as El Tigre, is Colombia's star player, and the hopes the country places on him merited a bedside visit from Colombia's president after Falcao awoke from his anesthetic.
Juan Manuel Santos's presidential plane made a detour on his way home from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to check on Falcao at Trindade hospital in downtown Porto, northern Portugal.
"He's in good spirits, he's very optimistic," Santos told reporters outside the hospital.
Santos said Colombia, which will face Ivory Coast, Greece and Japan in Group C at the tournament in Brazil, has a strong group of players "but Falcao has become a symbol of the national team."
The Portuguese doctor who performed the surgery said it went according to plan.
Dr Jose Carlos Noronha said a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which Falcao contracted in his left knee, can often take more than six months to heal. However, he wouldn't rule out the possibility of the player recovering in time for Colombia's World Cup opener against Greece on June 14.
"It went well," Noronha said of the surgery to graft a tendon onto Falcao's knee. "The light at the end of the tunnel isn't small."
Every patient recovers at a different pace, he said.
"There's a possibility of him going to the tournament," Noronha said. "It's not out of the question."
The 27-year-old Falcao injured his knee playing for Monaco in the French Cup on Wednesday.
Inflammation from the original injury had gone down relatively quickly, Noronha said, allowing surgery to go ahead three days later.
However, Noronha warned that Falcao "can't rush his recovery."
Falcao is set to be released from the hospital on Monday. Noronha said he expected Falcao to continue his recovery in Monaco.