Burning "desire": James Rodriguez shakes off injury to inspire Colombia

PASADENA, Calif. – His participation on Tuesday’s match against Paraguay was surrounded by uncertainty until minutes before kickoff.

James Rodriguez’s status for Colombia was questionable, due to a shoulder injury suffered in their opening game against the United States on Friday in Santa Clara. There was even speculation that his presence for the remainder of the tournament was in danger.

However, James not only played all 90 minutes in Los Cafeteros' 2-1 win over Paraguay, he was the star of the show, assisting Carlos Bacca in the opening goal and scoring himself in the 30th minute.

"He was never ruled out of the game," said Colombia’s head coach Jose Pekerman at the postgame press conference. "Being such an exclusive and central figure, and with all the expectations from the fans and everyone to see him play, we had to be cautious.

“He had a good recovery in all aspects, and today in the morning, we knew he was going to play,” Pekerman added. 

The decision to insert Rodriguez in the starting lineup was partly influenced by the player himself, who continually expressed his eagerness to participate.

"When you have desire, everything is easier," said James Rodriguez after the game. "Since yesterday we had talked about this already. But you always have to be careful, because the shoulders are exposed." 

Thus Pekerman warned that the team would continue evaluating the evolution of his shoulder injury, as in injuries of this type, there are chances that may intensify and surgery might be required.

"The problem is that, at some point, it could happen again," Pekerman said. "The issue for the player is that when the shoulder’s capsule is enlarged, at some point it could only be repaired with surgery. We have already notified his club, Real Madrid. They are aware of it."

After his impressive display against the Paraguayans, many believe that James has returned to the high level he showed in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he won the Golden Boot as the tournament's top goalscorer.

The playmaker hopes to continue improving in Copa America and reach that same level.

 "I just want to play well," Rodriguez said. "If that happens [to be the tournament's top scorer], I think it will be good."