Radamel Falcao scored a second-half penalty as Colombia defeated Kuwait 3-1 in an international friendly Monday evening at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
The South Americans went ahead through Abel Aguilar's well-taken volley in the 22nd minute, but Kuwait drew level on the stroke of half-time as Mesaed Al Enzi bundled in from a corner. Edwin Cardona restored Colombia's lead in the 68th minute before Falcao won and converted a penalty to confirm the victory.
Rated No. 3 in the world in FIFA's latest rankings, Colombia laboured at times against an unfancied Kuwait side before taking control of the match midway through the second half. Similarly, Falcao, who has endured a rough run of form of late with Manchester United, often struggled at the top of the formation before finally finding the back of the net.
The win was Colombia's sixth straight and should give the Cafeteros further confidence ahead of this year's Copa America, which will see Jose Pekerman's side drawn in the same group as Brazil.
For Falcao, meanwhile, the goal could be an opportunity to turn around what's been a largely disappointing season with Man United. With eight matches remaining in the Premier League season, the superstar striker has scored only four times in England's top flight. But on international duty, "El Tigre" has now scored three goals in his last two appearances.
In the buildup to Monday's match, Pekerman spoke about fixing Falcao, telling Carl Worswick at the Guardian: "I know Falcao’s strengths, his mentality and his fighting spirit, and I’ve never doubted that he’ll come out the other side. He’s in a bad moment, but he’s looking after himself and this week is going to be very important for him."
With all the attacking talent on display for Colombia, it was perhaps a surprise when Aguilar opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. Not necessarily known for his goalscoring abilities, Aguilar volleyed in impressively from the edge of the box after Kuwait were unable to fully clear a Juan Quintero free-kick.
Colombia came close again four minutes later as Fredy Guarin lofted a cross into the box for Falcao. The ball sailed inches too far for the Manchester United striker, who was offside regardless.
The South Americans put the ball in the net a second time in the 37th minute as Carlos Bacca slotted in after being picked out by a Quintero through ball. But the goal was ruled out for offside and the score remained 1-0.
Kuwait drew level in first-half stoppage time, taking advantage of poor defending by Colombia. Abdullah Al Buraiki curled in a corner from the right, with Falcao in position to clear. Instead, the ball evaded Falcao and fell to an unsuspecting Mesaed Al Enzi, who bundled into the net.
If the 1-1 scoreline at half-time was a surprise, Kuwait threatened to spring a genuine shock early in the second half. In the 51st minute, Al Buraiki cut through midfield before sending a deflected shot off the inside of the post. Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina was well beaten, but the ball bounced away to safety.
Colombia responded with a pair of half-chances in quick succession. In the 61st minute, Daniel Bocanegra headed wide from a Guarin free-kick. Two minutes later, Guarin tried his luck with a long-range shot that flew straight to Kuwait goalkeeper Hameed Youssef.
The South Americans' second goal arrived in the 68th minute as Edwin Cardona showed off an impressive bit of individual skill. Powering through midfield, Cardona cut back onto his right foot well outside the box and bounced a curling shot past Youssef at the near post for a 2-1 lead.
Colombia won a penalty in the 72nd minute as Falcao made his most valuable contribution of the match. Accepting a pass outside the box, the striker turned expertly before drawing a foul along the edge of the area. Replays showed the contact occurred outside the box, but the referee awarded a penalty nonetheless. Two minutes later, Falcao slammed his shot into the roof of the net to put Colombia ahead 3-1.
It turned out to be the final goal of the match as Colombia cruised to victory over the final quarter-hour.