Colombia's talismanic striker Radamel Falcao will miss the Fifa World Cup after losing his battle to recover from the crushing knee injury he sustained playing for his club Monaco in January.
The 28-year-old's absence from Brazil was confirmed on Tuesday by Colombia coach Jose Pekerman. "It's a sad night," the Argentine told a press conference at his squad's training camp in Campana.
"With a great deal of sadness I must inform you that Radamel Falcao and Luis Perea will not be taking part in the World Cup because they have not recovered from their injuries."
Falcao, who has scored 20 goals in 51 international appearances, suffered serious knee ligament damage in a French Cup tie on January 22 and has not played since. He's been training with the Colombia squad since the end of last month, but his fitness level has failed to satisfy the Colombian team's medical experts.
"It's a difficult time. I'll be supporting the team with all my force," said the striker. "The forwards picked for the World Cup are great players who have the backing of the entire team and the coaches. They've been good throughout the season," he added.
Pekerman hinted at a divergence of views between him and the Colombian football federation's medical team. "I wanted him to play no matter what part," said Pekerman.
"Sometimes man can move mountains, and other times he's powerless. This decision concerning Falcao is the conlusion of the experts."
The news hit Colombia's football fans hard, with the former River Plate, FC Porto and Atletico Madrid attacker as well known in Bogota as celebrated singer Shakira. His fate has kept the nation of 46 million holding its collective breath.
Colombia is drawn in Group C in Brazil with Ivory Coast, Greece and Japan. Their hopes of making it into the second round will in part rest now on the shoulders of Falcao's Monaco teammate, midfielder James Rodriguez.
Despite Falcao's absence, Pekerman said: "We have to believe in this team, it's got high ambitions and it's ready to take on the big sides."
Colombia is by no means the only World Cup finalists sweating on news from the sick bay.
Spain have concerns over their Brazil-born marksman Diego Costa, Uruguay too are waiting on last season's leading scorer in the English Premier League Luis Suarez and France on winger Franck Ribery.
And Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will have to do without star midfielder Riccardo Montolivo, whose World Cup went up in smoke when he broke his leg in a warm-up on Sunday against Ireland.