Spira’s ‘insomniac’ Cup memories

He might have one eye on the World Cup opener against Chile but the Socceroos' final friendly against Croatia this Friday in Salvador (Saturday, 9am AEST) has extra special significance for Matt Spiranovic.

With his family background from Croatia, the nation and its football side has always held a special place in the hearts of the Spiranovic family, who are based in Geelong, Victoria.

In fact it was the Croats’ thrilling march to the 1998 semi-finals in France where the Socceroos defender first fell in love with the World Cup as a nine-year-old.

"I remember being an insomniac during that 1998 World Cup," Spiranovic told www.socceroos.com.au.

"I was staying at my uncle's house watching every game and following Croatia, they were great memories.

"They made the semis that year and had some great players like Suker, Boban and Prosinecki

"Obviously that all changed when Australia made it and in Germany they played each other and it was a special game. Of course it's all Australia now."

Spiranovic is now hoping he can be a part of a Socceroos side that - much like Croatia did 16 years ago - can cause their own shocks in Brazil.

While he has just 17 caps to his name, at 25 Spiranovic is somewhat of a veteran when it comes to defensive options in Ange Postecoglou's squad.

It's a role that's been thrust on the Western Sydney Wanderers star following the omissions of former skipper Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski.

But guiding the likes of Ivan Franjic, Jason Davidson, Bailey Wright and Ryan McGowan is something Spiranovic is relishing.

He has been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and quality of the young contingent in the squad and believes it gives them a realistic shot at proving the critics wrong.

"This team's young, fearless and has nothing to lose," Spiranovic said.

"There's a lot of talent in this team and I think while people may be writing us off, knowing how Ange wants us to play and his philosophy, he's not one to take a backward step and no doubt we won't die wondering.

"It's important to have that attitude and mentality.

"There is nothing to lose and it's important to go out there, do our best and enjoy it and that's generally when you play your best.

"I'm really excited by what we can achieve in Brazil."

Asked how the rookies in the side were handling being part of a World Cup squad, Spiranovic said: "They're excited, they're nervous because it’s all new.

"I remember my first camp coming in was the same, although it was maybe a bit different because it was a team packed full of overseas stars.

"But this is still a special thing to be a part of and a great opportunity for them.

"I'm excited to be a part of it with them and just looking forward to getting started."

The Socceroos play Croatia in a friendly on Friday night (kick off 9am AEST time Saturday morning live on Fox Sports) ahead of their tournament opener against Chile on June 13.

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