Franjic plans his ascent
MUCH of the talk from the Socceroos' final three World Cup qualifiers centred on how well the team's ageing defenders performed.
Veterans Matt McKay, Sasa Ognenovski and captain Lucas Neill, not to mention 40-year-old keeper Mark Schwarzer, let in just one goal in those games against Japan, Jordan and Iraq, as Australia wrapped up a berth at the global tournament in Brazil next year.
But young Roar defender Ivan Franjic also wants to be a part of that defensive wall, and has some lofty expectations ahead the Socceroos next assignment, the East Asian Cup, which starts in Korea next Saturday.
Franjic made his Australian debut at the East Asian Cup qualifiers last December, and has been pushing himself at a training camp for the national's squad's A-League based players in Sydney this week.
"Our defenders have been very impressive, and it was a pleasure watching them from the bench in the last three World Cup qualifiers," Franjic said.
"But I'm aiming to be a part of that starting eleven in Brazil."
The 25-year-old was highly impressive for the Roar after spending some time on the right wing in the latter stages of last season's A-League campaign.
But moving up the field for the national side could be an even tougher challenge considering the impressive form of players like Robbie Kruse and Tommy Oar in the World Cup qualifiers.
"If I get picked, I don't care where it is," Franjic said.
"They were very good for us in the recent qualifiers, and have only got better since playing over in Europe."
Franjic said coach Holger Osieck had cracked the whip at the camp, understandably given the Socceroos will face Asian powerhouses Japan, Korea and China from next weekend.
"It's been very competitive with the guys pushing for spots. Everything's been at a high intensity, but having good competition makes you a better player," Franjic said.
"We'll be playing some high-quality opposition, but we've been building nicely for it at this camp.
"Holger is very good tactically. I thought we were very impressive in our last few World Cup qualifiers, but there are still a few things we can improve on."