Croatia circle Juric as hot-streak striker chases Olyroos ticket to Tokyo

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Dual-nationality striker Deni Juric - younger brother of Socceroo Tomi - is being courted by Croatia as his aptitude in front of goal shows no sign of abating.

Juric sits fifth on Croatia’s 1.HNL scoring charts with nine goals in 20 appearances this season for newly-promoted upstarts HNK Sibenik.

Having picked up caps at U-19 level for Croatia and Australia’s Under-23s, the Sydney-born centre-forward is open to all eventualities.

But his abiding ambition is to land a spot on the plane to Tokyo in July for the delayed Olympics and wear the green and gold for Graham Arnold.

Then, at some point, should the planets align, partner sibling Tomi in a Socceroos line-up.

None of that has stopped the Croatia Football Federation making contact in recent weeks to inform Juric, 23, he’s on their radar, hinting a move to a more lustrous club than the sixth-placed Oranges might bear international fruit for him.

“They have been in touch, to be honest, a few times over the last month or so to show their interest,” Juric confirmed.

“They say a lot could hinge on my next step at club level, and at the same time I’ve actually had two very good offers recently from teams outside Croatia.

“One of them played in the Champions League qualifiers.

“If I were to move on (to a bigger club) and a call from Croatia came then I’d have a big decision to make.

“At the same time, I was born in Australia and I’ve always wanted to follow Tomi into the Socceroos and to hopefully play in the Olympics as well. 

“Some of the biggest players in the world have played in that tournament and being there myself would be an unbelievable experience.

“The whole world is watching.

“There’s that Croatian side of me and it would be a massive decision, if it came down to it.”

Addressing the prospects of an off-season switch, Juric admits it’s in the offing.

“I think the way I’ve been performing it might not be too far away,” he said.

“I’ve rejected those (two particular) offers because I think it’s best I finish the season off where I am, get more games into my legs, and maybe look at things again in the (northern) summer.”

“When I make my next club move I’m sure I’ll get a call from either one or the other country, and all the cards will be on the table.

“You could say, for sure, though that my heart lies with Australia.

“The dream of playing alongside Tomi for the green and gold is still alive.”

Under FIFA regulations, Juric could feasibly represent Australia in Tokyo then still switch allegiances to Croatia. But once he’s appeared in a sanctioned tournament for the Vatreni he’d be betrothed to the land of his forbears for life.

Meantime, Juric is likely to be called in to an Olyroos camp in Saudi Arabia at the end of this month - should it be ratified - for mooted friendlies against Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Referring to his hot scoring streak, which has included two blistering 50-metre runs and finishes, Juric said: “I’m pretty happy with how I’m going.

“To be scoring for a team that was meant to be struggling against relegation is really satisfying.

“We’re doing much better than people predicted.

“The coach has pretty much stuck with the same players as last season, and there’s a great spirit and chemistry there which has helped me a lot.

“Physically I’ve never felt better - we’ve played eight games in three weeks and I’ve played every minute.

“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and not rush into going somewhere else and maybe burning out and ending up being nowhere.

“I have 18 months left on my contract - I’m happy where I am and my aim is to bang in a few more goals and be smart about what happens in the future.

“I have the club’s full support and that means a lot to me.”

Source SBS The World Game