Monday 20 May 2019, 22:46

Roffo ready to seize second chance

  • Manuel Roffo returns to the U-20 World Cup more determined than ever

  • The Argentinian is eager to avenge a disappointing exit two years ago

  • Roffo: "You never know if you'll play at a World Cup again"

“It’s a second chance for me, even if I don’t get to play. Do you know how much it hurts to go to a World Cup with Argentina and get knocked out in the first round?”

Manuel Roffo is in a brutally honest mood as he recalls his first FIFA U-20 World Cup, which came two years ago in Korea Republic, when he was his country’s third-choice goalkeeper. With just a matter of hours to go before the second U-20 world finals of his promising career, Roffo's desire to reflect comes as no surprise.

“A setback like that makes you look at this opportunity in a different way,” he told The only member of that squad who is now on duty at Poland 2019, he has been part of the Argentina youth set-up since the age of 14.

“It’s a really horrible feeling to have regrets, and I’m delighted to have a second go at it. I was the youngest then and now I’m the oldest. I’m more mature and relaxed and better able to make the most of it.”

The young keeper, who is 6’0 (1.84m) tall, possesses fine reflexes, is comfortable with the ball at his feet and sometimes even takes penalties at Boca Juniors. Roffo provided an even more emphatic answer when asked if he had spoken to his Albiceleste team-mates about that frustrating experience two years ago.

“Absolutely,” said the former U-17 national team captain. “Sometimes you don’t fully understand everything that’s at stake, and it’s really tough when it suddenly dawns on you after it’s all over. You leave the U-20s behind and you never know if you’re going to play at a World Cup again. It’s very hard to make the full team.”

Playing with the big boys

Roffo knows what he is talking about on that subject too, having trained with the senior team before and during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

“It’s unforgettable, on and off the pitch,” he said. “I can’t tell you how it feels to save a free-kick from [Lionel] Messi!

“The first time was before we travelled to Russia. I was just looking on in amazement at the things he was doing and the goalkeeping coach came over and said to me, ‘Can you come and stop a few free-kicks from Leo?’ My legs were shaking! I kept out two or three, he congratulated me, and I went home happy.”

It was at that time that he struck up a friendship with Sergio Romero, Argentina’s most capped keeper. The two continue to exchange text messages.

“When you watch him train, with the technique he has, you learn,” said Roffo. “He’s up there with the best if you ask me, and his consistency with the national team is proof of that. He’s a really great guy too.”

Romero is not the young keeper’s only role model, however.

“I don’t have one in particular; I just watch the little things a few of them do," he said. "Here’s an example: I like watching how [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen plays with both feet and also what he does when he’s not got the ball. Things like that.”

All thoughts on Poland

Opponent 🆚Date 🗓Location & Time (Local) 🏟⌚️🇦🇷
South Africa 🇿🇦Saturday 25 MayTychy (20:30)
Portugal 🇵🇹Tuesday 28 MayBielsko Biala (18:00)
Korea Republic 🇰🇷Friday 31 MayTychy (20:30)

Argentina started slow at the South American U-20 Championship, collecting a single point in their two opening matches of the group phase. Though they recovered on that occasion, a similar beginning to their campaign in Poland could prove costly.

“That’s true, but it’s also good that it happened to us there,” explained Roffo. “We had no margin for error against Peru and Uruguay and we knew how we had to perform in those games. They won’t all be like that."

The Argentinians went on to become the first side to qualify for the World Cup and almost won the continental title.

“It was a good learning experience," he said, "but that doesn’t mean we’re going to underestimate anyone.”

The young shot-stopper harbors no doubts about his side’s objective in Poland.

“Every side, both youth and senior, goes with the aim of being champions," Roffo said. "Some are under more pressure to do that than others, and that’s the case with Argentina. We hope we can live up to expectations.”

His love for goalkeeping

When did it start?

“When I was four or five, funnily enough, and I’ve been in goal ever since. I’m good with my feet. That, as well as my ability to save the ball, has helped me as I’ve grown older.”

Do you still have your first pair of gloves?

“My mum’s got them. She keeps everything! Her house is a museum; she doesn’t let me throw anything out.”

Do you swap gloves?

“Yes. The most cherished ones I have belong to 'Chiquito' Romero, Agustin Orion, Juan Musso and the Brazilian keeper Gabriel Brazao.”

Who else would you like to swap gloves with?

“[Gianluigi] Buffon. But if we can’t swap gloves, then a shirt would do.”