MELBOURNE (Reuters) - For Australia striker Tomi Juric, the uncertainty over his spot in Bert van Marwijk’s World Cup squad was nearly as bothersome as his troubled knee.
The 26-year-old has been under a cloud since arriving in the Socceroos’ camp in Turkey with a nagging patella, prompting Van Marwijk to draft in Scotland-based forward Jamie Maclaren.
Juric was then forced to watch from the sidelines as the team enjoyed a 4-0 thumping of the Czech Republic in a World Cup warmup in Austria on Friday.
Van Marwijk ultimately put Juric out of his misery on Sunday by including both him and Maclaren in his final 23-man squad, with Nikita Rukavytsya the unlucky striker to be cut.
Yet to score a goal under the Dutchman’s watch, Juric is desperate to get back on the park for the Socceroos’ final warmup against Hungary in Budapest on Saturday, to stake his claim in a forward line featuring World Cup veteran Tim Cahill, teenage talent Daniel Arzani and the in-form Andrew Nabbout.
“I wouldn’t mind (starting against Hungary) to be honest, it’d be nice to get back onto the park a bit longer and get some minutes under the belt before the tournament,” the Switzerland-based Juric told Australian media.
“Obviously it’s a confidence thing as well to get it out of the way and get the legs going.
“I felt quite sharp in the last training. I hit the back of the net a couple of times and it’s always a good feeling.”
With eight goals in 34 internationals since his 2013 debut, Juric has not quite been the successor to 38-year-old Cahill that Australia has been craving for the better part of a decade.
Tall and athletic, he has shown himself adept at getting into dangerous positions but tends to elicit almost as many groans in front of goal as cheers, wasting gilt-edged chances while converting the harder ones.
Wingers Nabbout and Mathew Leckie, who scored a brace against the Czechs, showed the value of a clinical touch on Friday, while putting pressure on Juric to deliver.
“This is definitely a moment where if I’m not ready I won’t be for a while,” said Juric, whose last international goal came against Thailand during a World Cup qualifier in September.
In their last warmup before meeting France, Denmark and Peru in the group phase at the World Cup, Australia will be looking for more improvement against Hungary on Saturday, added the Sydney-born marksman.
“Maybe not necessarily in goals, we’ve scored four and it’s not always easy to score four in every game,” he said.
“The things that we’ve been working on the pitch, and seeing that implemented on game day would be fantastic.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly