Falcao denies on-field pact played a part in Lima draw

Colombia captain Radamel Falcao (left) admitted telling his Peruvian opponents that a draw would benefit both sides in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, but insisted that the 1-1 draw was fairly contested throughout.
Colombia captain Radamel Falcao (left) admitted telling his Peruvian opponents that a draw would benefit both sides in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, but insisted that the 1-1 draw was fairly contested throughout.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • It has been dubbed the "Lima Pact" but Radamel Falcao has insisted that his Colombia team and opponents Peru fought to the bitter end of Tuesday's 1-1 draw that suited both sides' World Cup qualification hopes.

Falcao was caught on camera speaking to opposition players towards the end of the qualifier in Lima and covering his mouth with his hand, apparently to prevent any observers from lip-reading.

Several South American media outlets have published photos of the moment, referring to it as the "Lima Pact".

With the score at 1-1 and other results going in their favour, Colombia were set to qualify automatically for the Finals in Russia while Peru were heading for a play-off against New Zealand. In the latter stages, both sides played possession football without showing any desire to attack and the result meant that Chile were knocked out.

Falcao, the former Chelsea and Manchester United striker who plays for Monaco, was asked by the Colombian media what he had said to Peru's captain, Paolo Guerrero.

He responded: "We knew what was happening in the other matches, we were playing with (the knowledge of) the other results and in that moment to transmit that.

"But I think Peru has been a worthy rival, they fought for 90 minutes just like us. The match was very tight. We suffered a lot but in the end we did it."

Peru's Renato Tapia admitted discussing World Cup qualification with Falcao, Colombia's captain, during the match but denied making a pact.

"In the last five minutes, the Colombians approached us. They knew what the situation was in the other games," Tapia told Panamericana TV station in an interview aired on Wednesday.

"So we managed the game as we needed to... I spoke with Radamel, who told me we were both qualified (as things stood), but it's football and we play to win."

Nolberto Solano, the former Newcastle United winger who is on Peru's coaching staff, also dismissed any notion of an agreement between the teams.

"We needed to win, them too. What pact? That's speculation," he said. "Obviously, at the end, we knew what the other results were and you tell yourself, 'Calm it down a bit, we mustn't take any risks'."

Fifa did not respond when asked if it was looking into the Lima match, nor the controversy over Panama's "phantom goal" in their 2-1 win over Costa Rica.

The ball did not cross the line but a goal was given and Panama went on to qualify ahead of the United States.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Falcao denies on-field pact played a part in Lima draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe