With a difficult start to life in the Swiss Super League behind him, Tomi Juric made a scoring return for FC Luzern last weekend – and he’s promising plenty more for both club and country.
By
Sebastian Hassett

19 May 2017 - 4:52 PM  UPDATED 19 May 2017 - 4:52 PM

The 25-year old is desperate to keep his place at the point of the Socceroos’ attack as they face a do-or-die World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in Adelaide on June 8, followed up by a clash with world number one Brazil at the MCG five days later, before they head to the Confederations Cup.

Upon arrival in Russia, the Socceroos will start against the might of world champions Germany, then African champions Cameroon and finally back-to-back South American champions Chile in what promises to be the sternest test of the national team since the 2014 World Cup.

With so much to play for, Juric is confident the goal will spark a return to form at club level and ultimately prepare him to deliver the goods for national coach Ange Postecoglou.

“It’s going to be a massive month and it’s hard not to get excited about what lies ahead for us at the Confederations Cup,"  he told The World Game.

Socceroos striker Juric eyeing 'something big'
Tomi Juric has answered Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou's call for more ambition from his players, declaring he is "pushing for something big" in one of Europe's top leagues.

"But we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves – the game against the Saudis in Adelaide will have everything riding on it.

“Fingers crossed I get picked, because I don't take anything for granted and cherish every cap I get. I'm working as hard as I humanly can to make sure I'm fit for it.

“June is going to be not only a physical challenge but a mental one, too. After a long season, we need to make sure we'll be fresher than the other teams we face. With a full crowd at the Adelaide Oval, I really believe we can get the points we need. That would set us up for a great month.”

Juric proved his fitness by putting in an excellent 90-minute shift against Young Boys Bern on Sunday, scoring a bullet header to level the scores at 1-1 and withstanding close attention from the hosts’ defence. It was his fifth strike since moving from Dutch club Roda JC last season.

Although the former Western Sydney Wanderers’ marksmen looked as sharp as ever, his team’s defence was exposed repeatedly and ended up shipping four goals – even letting Miralem Sulejmani score after just 14 seconds.

Grant in frame for Socceroos' big month
With a huge June beckoning for the Socceroos, uncapped Sydney FC right-back Rhyan Grant would relish another chance in green and gold.

"I'm really happy to be back on the score sheet, particularly after a long while. It's been difficult," he said.

"I've been short of goals – at least from the targets that I have – and I know I can do a lot better.

“As a team, we've been under-performing this whole second half of the season and it showed against Young Boys.

 It's just not working for us and what we're delivering as a team isn't enough to get us the points.”

After keeping pace with the league’s top teams early in the season, the gap has widened and there’s even a small chance fifth-placed Luzern could miss European qualification altogether.

“We haven't won in a long time now – except against (bottom-placed) FC Vaduz – who we always expected to get points against," he said.

"It's just been rough overall, the whole second half of the season and we need to bust our guts to start picking up points so we don't drop out of the Europa League placings.

“There is a sense of disappointment, mostly because we had such great expectations about what we could do as a group. Morale is low, we're low on confidence and that's reflected in our results.

“But this is the time when you have to pull together and this is when you find your true character. Are we the real deal or not? Do we deserve to play in Europe next year?

Dutch teams want end to artificial turf
Captains of 12 top-tier teams in the Netherlands have asked the national football federation and league organisers to ban matches on artificial turf.

"When the going gets tough, that's when the big boys come out and play. It's really time for us to switch on, stop playing around and start picking up points.”

Juric openly admits there’s been an “adjustment phase” to life in Switzerland – not only culturally, but in the “physical” nature of play and the widespread use of artificial surfaces.

“They're hard to turn on and, to be honest, I feel like a semi-trailer out there,” he said.

“We’ve got normal grass at Luzern but I've had two away games in a row – against Thun and Young Boys – and we also practised on artificial grass to get ready for it. They're actually two of the better artificial pitches, but I'm dead from it.

“After two weeks, you can feel the impact. Honestly, that's basically the reason I left Holland. At Roda, we had artificial pitches and my knees couldn't take it any more and I was struggling. It's a big relief not to have that in Luzern.”