Tomi Juric celebrates a goal against Brisbane Roar last month. Photo: Getty Images
Tomi Juric has played down the growing comparisons with Socceroos great Mark Viduka but acknowledged that, like the former Leeds United striker, he was perhaps born to score goals.
When Archie Thompson likened the 22-year-old to Viduka during a Socceroos' training session last year, Juric thought the Melbourne Victory forward was playing one of his pranks. It turned out that Thompson was the first of many to draw comparisons between Juric and the former Leeds forward throughout the course of this season as his style of physical play, pace, technique and eye for goal became more evident.
"The next Viduka" is not a label he is overly comfortable with but at times he acknowledges the similarities in style.
Legend: Mark Viduka. Photo: Getty Images
"I laughed the first time I heard it because it was ridiculous." Juric said. "I'm nowhere near Mark Viduka but it was Archie Thompson who first mentioned that while we were competing in the East Asian Cup over in Korea.
"I still think I'm a long way off Mark Viduka. I've still got a lot to improve on and that's a long way to go. Mark was a massive figure for Australia and to play so many years in the English Premier League and do so well, they're big shoes to fill, but those comparisons are nothing more than comparisons and they're just peoples opinions."
The young forward says he does share a similar trait to Viduka in his predatory nature in front of goal, something he says has been engrained since he was a child.
"Were born and bred to score, so players like me and the boys in my team that play up front, we pride ourselves on our goals," Juric said. "I've been asked before what I would do if I didn't play football and I still can't think of anything. Football is like a religion to me. Come this Sunday that's church for me. I love it so much that even as a kid I would sleep with a ball. I never had pyjamas, it was always jersey and shorts to bed. Football to me means a lot."
There aren't many forwards in the A-League that have the same qualities as Juric, who can play as a traditional target man or as a more mobile centre forward, and he says his five years developing in Croatia may have contributed to his rare traits compared with other Australian players.
"It taught me a lot of things, not just about football, but about life as well," Juric said. "I was more mature than if I stayed here. I learnt a lot from different coaches and different styles and how to act around the team. You learn what it's like to be a footballer and coming back here to a more professional set-up to over there, it's made it easier to settle in. I think it would've taken me a little bit longer to find my feet if i didn't have that experience over there."
There will be more than 50,000 supporters packed into Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and Juric will be the focal point of the Wanderers' attack, but he is not concerned with the pressure on him on Sunday because of his strength of instinct to find the back of the net.
"As a striker, you trust your instinct and when you do that, the best things happen," Juric said. "When you try too hard, things don't go your way. Be cool, calm and then you can finish off in style."