Colombia's Rodriguez eyes better show in Russia

James Rodriguez hopes the team can top what it achieved four years ago and reach the semi-finals or the championship match.

James Rodriguez (right) and Radamel Falcao Garcia prior to an exhibition match at the Nemesio Camacho stadium in Bogota.   -  AP

Midfielder James Rodriguez has high expectations for Colombia heading into the 2018 World Cup in Russia, saying he hopes the team can top what it achieved four years ago and reach the semi-finals or the championship match.

"We all want more. When you do great things, you always want more. And I hope that can be the semis or a nice final," James told reporters after an emotional send-off celebration on Friday night at El Campin Stadium in Bogota reports Efe.

Referring to the farewell game/party, which featured a performance by Colombian reggaeton singer Maluma and a match involving two sides of national-team players, the Bayern Munich star said he appreciated "being near all the people."

"I think it's nice that they see we also feel a lot of affection for them," James said.

The midfielder, who has spent three seasons at Real Madrid and one at Bayern since Colombia achieved its first-ever World Cup quarter-final berth at the tournament's 2014 edition in Brazil, said he and his teammates had more experience now than they did four years ago.

Colombia reached the final eight in Brazil despite having to make do without injured striker Radamel Falcao Garcia, then the country's biggest-named player.

Falcao, the national team's all-time top scorer with 29 goals, earned a 2017 Ballon d'Or nomination for his recent strong play at French club Monaco and now is looking forward to his first World Cup at the age of 32.

"It's an opportunity to be here four years after not having been able to compete at the World Cup in Brazil. The story's different now. I'm making the most of every moment with my teammates, getting us ready for this World Cup that we're very excited about," an emotional Falcao said.

The Colombian team travels to Italy, where it will continue its preparations for the World Cup.

It will play one final pre-World Cup friendly on June 1 in Bergamo, Italy, against Egypt.

Colombia has been drawn in Group H along with Japan, Poland and Senegal.

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