Size no issue for Rojas and Caetano

New Zealand midfielder Marco Rojas and Portugal forward Rui Caetano will get a chance to size each other up when the two countries come face to face in the final round of games in Group B on Friday.

Both have played distinguished roles in their teams’ performances so far despite being dwarfed by some of the towering defenders on duty at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011. While Rojas stands 5’6 tall, Caetano is only 5’4, although as they both explain to FIFA.com, the fact that they usually have to look up to their opponents does not mean to say they do not know how to get the better of them.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” say Caetano, when asked about his diminutive stature. “My mum and dad are both short so I was never going to be tall myself. If I had been, then my dad wouldn’t be my dad!”

Though he can joke about it now, Caetano struggled to make his way in the game because of his lack of height. Fortunately for him, Porto recognised his talent at the age of 12 and over the next six years he would hone his skills with the Portuguese giants before making the move to domestic rivals Pacos de Ferreira, where he will remain for at least the next year of his career.

A fan of pint-sized geniuses Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, the 20-year-old is determined to keep on working hard at his game. “I always focus a lot on mobility and speed and I’ve always given 100 per cent on the pitch,” said Caetano, who added that he does not see any special need to improve his heading skills. “No, I leave that to the big guys. I don’t need to get into the box.”

My mum and dad are both short so I was never going to be tall myself. If I had been, then my dad wouldn’t be my dad!
Portugal forward Rui Caetano on the height issue

Hailing from a country famed for its rugby-playing giants, New Zealander Rojas said he has never had a problem with his height: “It’s never been an issue for me. To my mind it’s not the most important thing in football and there are countless examples of small players who’ve had a lot of success, like Messi.”

The Junior All White No15 has another role model aside from the Argentinian wizard: new Barcelona signing Alexis Sanchez, who stands only an inch taller than him at 5’7. And like Sanchez, Rojas also has Chilean blood coursing through his veins, courtesy of his father, though his allegiance lies with his mother’s homeland, where he was born and brought up.

“Half of my family is from Chile and the other half from New Zealand,” he explained. “I made the decision to play here because that’s where I feel most comfortable, though I’ve never forgotten my roots. I speak Spanish and I like the country.”

While U-20 coach Chris Milicich has made Rojas one of his midfield linchpins, the young gun has also battled his way into the senior team reckoning and impressed in his first two appearances earlier this year. “I played for the national team against China and Australia. It was a great experience for me and an honour to be one of the 20 or 25 players selected, and I hope I can keep it going.”

Provided that their respective coaches do not make any tactical changes, Caetano and Rojas will both be playing central roles when Portugal and New Zealand meet in Cali, where the duel between these two pocket-sized dynamos could well prove decisive.