14. Tom Juric
Tomi Juric has come out of nowhere to become one of Australia’s most promising young strikers. Since moving to the Western Sydney Wanderers, Juric has shown nothing but class in what has been a flawless season for the club.
The playing style of the striker has been compared to Socceroo legend Mark Viduka. Juric is a complete forward possessing strength, speed and a dead eye in front of goals. Juric was the target man for the Wanderers in the 2013/14 A-League season this year recording 29 appearances and scoring 12 goals including four in the Asian Champions League.
2014 has been a year full of confidence for Juric. He has backed himself in the A-League, scored for the All-stars against Juventus and was a match winner on multiple occasions for the Wanderers in the ACL. Tomi scored an important goal for WSW in the round of 16 against Sanfrecce Hiroshima and then followed it up with a composed finish in the 1st leg ACL final against Al-Hilal. It only took Juric five minutes after being subbed on to score the winner. The aggregate stayed 1-0 at the end of two legs and Tomi Juric was crowned as an Asian Champions League winner for the Wanderers.
His solid performances this year did not go unnoticed to Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou. Although injury was a setback in selection for the 2014 World Cup, Juric’s performances this season have proven himself a contender for a spot in the 2015 Socceroos Asian Cup Squad.
Juric has now found some solid form again in the A-League and faces a new challenge against Cruz Azul in the Club World Cup.
The Wanderers have already made history as the first ever Australian team to win the ACL and a win against Azul could once again put Juric in the spotlight.
Juric has also been nominated for the NAB Young Footballer of the year 2014/15 award which is credit to the hard work he has put in.
Big clubs will be looking to snap up Juric in the future. If he can stay injury free, there is no reason as to why Juric can’t be a standout for the Socceroos in next year’s Asian Cup.
13. Matthew Spiranovic
If you heard that the Socceroos were having an injury crisis with central defenders in the lead up to this year’s World Cup, you could be forgiven for automatically assuming that Matthew Spiranovic was one of those affected.
Having struggled to string together uninterrupted seasons for almost his entire career, Spiranovic was actually not one of those involved and was finally given a chance to fulfill his potential as the leader of the Socceroos back four.
Growing up and playing his junior football in Geelong, the tall, lanky defender they call ‘Spira’ learnt his trade at the VIS, and then the AIS alongside similarly talented junior and good friend Dario Vidošić, before signing for Bundesliga side 1. FC Nürnberg.
His successful start was hampered by ongoing injury issues, proving to be the tale of Spiranovic’s four years in Germany, followed by stints at Urawa Red Diamonds in the J-League and a season with Qatari outfit Al Arabi before Tony Popovic convinced him to return to the A-League with West Sydney in order to get himself back into the frame for the 2014 World Cup.
Despite the Wanderers’ hugely successful inaugural season, Spiranovic soon found himself in the side at the expense of club captain Michael Beauchamp and kept him on the outer for most of the season, such was his good form. Integral in WSW’s Asian Champions League campaign and relishing the physical demands of week-to-week game time, Spira formed a strong partnership with Nikolai Topor-Stanley, and helped to lead the Wanderers to second spot on the A-League table, as well as a place in their second Grand Final in as many years, with Spiranovic scoring in that game despite going down in extra time.
This form saw him rewarded with the opportunity to start at the heart of defence for the Socceroos at the 2014 World Cup. With the likes of Rhys Williams and Curtis Good missing through injury and Lucas Neill overlooked, it was Spiranovic and Korean-based Alex Wilkinson who started all 3 group games in the green and gold, with Spiranovic looking most assured against some of the world’s top attacking lineups.
Of course, he also came off the bench to sure up a 0-0 scoreline in the second leg of the AFC Champions League final back in early November, giving the Wanderers a 1-0 aggregate win and creating history in the process. This win will see them straight into the quarter finals of the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup later this month, pitting them against CONCACAF Champions League winners Cruz Azul.
Australian football fans can only hope that Matthew Spiranovic’s recent form continues, for when he is at his best and injury-free, he looks set to fulfill Holger Osieck’s prophecy of leading the Australian defence for the next decade.
Words by Ari Charilaou & Nick Leggatt