Cari Roccaro’s fearlessness in the tackle, superb aerial game, thundering shot and the ability to excel even in tight spaces are just some of the qualities that have allowed the American teenager to make significant progress in following in the footsteps of many of her footballing idols.
“Tobin Heath was my role model when I was growing up,” Roccaro told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “But I think the whole women’s national team are all my role models too. That’s where I want to be one day and I look up to all of them. I just want to be like them and want to do what they do on and off the field. I think they are amazing. And hopefully when I’m a bit older, more experienced and have improved, I can get a call to that team and help them to compete in a World Cup one day.”
The chances of that happening are good, even if the 19-year-old is currently focusing on achieving success with the USA’s U-20 side, who are aiming to defend their crown at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014 in August. “I’m looking forward to the tournament because it’s once again another opportunity to compete at the highest level,” Roccaro said. “It’s also another opportunity for me to represent my country.”
*Rematch with Germany *In 2012 she was part of the triumphant USA team that beat Germany 1-0 in the U-20 final in Japan, and the side will face the same opponent in their first group game at this year’s tournament too. Roccaro was undecided when asked whether the teams’ history will make the encounter a special match, or if it will be just another game.
“It’ll kind of be both,” said the defender, who plays for Fighting Irish at the University of Notre Dame. “We will always remember that they’re the team the United States beat in the final and also that we played against them at the group stage at last World Cup and lost 3-0. We know they’ll be a tough opponent. It’ll be a game where we have to bring out our best and hopefully win.”
We know they’ll be a tough opponent. It’ll be a game where we have to bring out our best and hopefully win.
Indeed, USA will have no room for error in the group stage in Canada, having also been drawn against Brazil and China PR. “It will be really challenging but that’d be the case in any other group,” Roccaro said. “There are a lot of good sides at the World Cup. Playing those teams early on in the tournament will prepare us for the games that we hopefully move on to later.”
'We might not win every game'The amicable defender, who professes a love of bagels and macaroni and cheese, does not believe travelling to Canada as reigning champions will be a burden on the team, but will instead be an opportunity to be exploited: “We have to go and remember that we have a target on our backs because we won two years ago. But at the same time it is a completely new team with new players, so it’s also like a fresh start. This team can make a name for itself and prove who we really are.”
Taking the title once again would certainly do that, although the path to the final is a long one. USA will need to play a total of six matches in order to get their hands on the trophy once more.
“One of the things I’ve learned from experience is that you might not win every game at this level,” Roccaro said. “Last time we ended up moving on from our group with a win, a loss and a tie. Playing in an international tournament and going on to win the World Cup has provided me with a lot of experience.
"I bring a kind of calming mood to the team and on the field I just reassure my team-mates that if they are facing a loss or doing really well, it’s all going to be OK. And also that we have to fight until we are finished.” If the rest of the team can adopt the same attitude then a successful title defence could well be on the cards.