Sydney memories to drive Juric in must-win Syria playoff

Striker Tomi Juric says has some wonderful memories playing at Stadium Australia and will call on those ahead of the Caltex Socceroos’ make-or-break World Cup playoff against Syria.

Tuesday night’s clash is just the second time Australia will return to play at the venue since their historic AFC Asian Cup win over South Korea in 2015.

Juric played a key role in Australia’s 2-1 win in extra-time, coming off the bench to set-up the match-winner for fellow substitute James Troisi.

And when Juric runs out against Syria to keep Australia’s 2018 World Cup hopes alive, he admits that magical night well be at the forefront of his mind.

“Definitely. That was some of the best times in my career and I’m sure in a lot of the other boy’s careers, to win something for the country,” Juric told reporters on Sunday.

“Let’s not forget that it was first trophy we ever won, the first piece of silverware. That’s something special to really take forward.

“We got a lot of confidence from that, so coming back home where it all happened, I’m sure we can get this game started off on the right foot.”

Given the energy-sapping conditions and heavy pitch in Malaysia,  coach Ange Postecoglou is expected to make a few changes to his starting XI in Sydney.

Tomi Juric gets a shot away in the first leg in Malaysia.
Tomi Juric gets a shot away in the first leg in Malaysia.

The likes of Tim Cahill, Tom Rogic, James Troisi, Jackson Irvine and Massimo Luongo were all kept in reserve in Malaysia.

With just five days between matches, Juric expects Australia’s fresh legs to be significant against a tired Syrian outfit.

“That’s going to be the difference for us in this game. We’ve got boys that can come in and make a difference,” the FC Luzern striker said.

“They’ll be fresh and raring to go. They were probably disappointed that they didn’t start the last game but I’m pretty sure the boss [Postecoglou] has a reason for that and that’s to be really sharp in this one.”

Asked if the side was feeling any added pressure heading into the winner-takes-all second leg, Juric said: “I wouldn’t say we feel more pressure but we haven’t been in this situation before, it’s something new for us that we have to deal with.

“I think it will bring us closer together and make us stronger. I’ve said before that Australians like to choose the hard road to go down. It’s nothing new for us, I’m sure we’ll get the job done.”