Arnold aims to foil Croatian poachers
Posted April 4, 2007on:
The 18-year-old from Geelong has already been capped by Australia at both under-17 and under-20 levels, but under the new international eligibility rules has not yet been tied to Australia.
Spiranovic is in his first season in the German Bundesliga and has recently broken into the first-team squad at FC Nurnberg. Over the past few months he has ignored overtures to join Australia’s under-23 Olyroos squad while he ponders his future.
Croatia has targeted Australian-born players of Croatian descent for the past decade, and Croatia went into last year’s World Cup with three “converts” – goalkeeper Joey Didulica and defenders Ante Seric and Josip Simunic.
Significantly, Simunic has been prominent in the push to convince Spiranovic to cross sides. At the final whistle of the weekend’s match between his club, Hertha Berlin, and FC Nurnberg, Simunic had a long conversation with Spiranovic on the pitch before they headed for separate dressing rooms. It is believed Croatian officials have pencilled in the friendly international against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo in August as the opportunity to hand Spiranovic his debut, thus tying him to Croatia.
Arnold admits to a growing concern about recent developments, and plans to talk to Spiranovic before the end of the week to emphasise that he has a big future with the Socceroos. A call-up for Australia’s pre-Asian Cup friendlies against Uruguay and Argentina in early June is on the cards.
“There’s no doubt we’re in danger of losing him,” Arnold said. “His parents have been getting all sorts of phone calls in the middle of the night from Croatia. Here’s a kid who has played for us at youth level, he’s been through the AIS, he’s played all his junior football as an Australian, and now he’s under real pressure to change sides.
“We can’t afford another episode like we had with Simunic and Seric. Matthew’s a central defender, a position where we’re light on, and he’s got a big role to play in the 2010 World Cup. I’m worried, definitely, and I’ll be doing a lot of talking to him and his family over the next few days.”
Michael Cockerill | April 3, 2007
Special Thanks to Joe Marinovic For Pointing Out the Story