Postecoglou on mission to get young star
RISING Australian football star Ajdin Hrustić is locked in a tug of war for his international services.
The Dutch-based attacking dynamo is firmly on the Socceroos radar, but Hrustic is also being courted by Bosnia and Herzegovina, the place of his father's birth.
Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou will name a preliminary 30-man squad next week (May 22) for June's series of matches, and it's believed that Hrustić is in contention.
But Bosnian Under 21 coach Vinko Marinovic has also been in contact with Hrustic's representatives for months and wants to include him in their next camp, which also includes games in June.
Postecoglou has watched Hrustić, 20, closely in his impressive debut senior season, which was capped off with another 25-minute outing for FC Groningen in a 5-3 win at FC Twente.
Hrustic, who's played five games this season, is likely to feature in Groningen's two legged playoff against AZ Alkmaar for a Europa League spot, starting Thursday.
Born and bred in Dandenong, Hrustic played his juniors for Heatherton United, Sandringham and South Melbourne before moving to Europe as a teenager.
Hrustić, a left-footer who can play in the number seven (right-wing), 10 (behind the strikers) or 11 (left-wing) role, is the kind of x-factor player Australia produces far less than it once did.
His individual brilliance was on display last month with a stunning debut goal for Groningen, a first-time strike from outside the box.
Hrustić was part of the Australian development camp in March and Olyroos coach Josep Gombau, who is also a Socceroos assistant, labelled him a standout.
Postecoglou is likely to pluck a few surprises in his extended squad, which will be trimmed to 23 on May 31 ahead of a crucial month.
The Socceroos host Saudi Arabia in a must-win clash at Adelaide Oval, before facing Brazil at the MCG on June 13, the day before they depart for the Confederations Cup in Russia.
There they are guaranteed three high-quality games, against Germany, Chile and Cameroon, with a semi-final spot up for grabs if they finish in the top two.
The Socceroos' World Cup fate will be decided later in the year, when they face Japan (August, away) and Thailand (September, home).
Saudi Arabia and Japan occupy the top two spots which guarantee automatic qualification for Russia 2018, while third spot means a dreaded playoff route via the other Asian group then North America (CONCACAF).