14:09 2006-01-11 Croatia's soccer federation has its eye on another Australian-born player of Croatian descent.
Croatian soccer chief Vlatko Markovic is interested in 17-year-old Mathew Spiranovic for the World Cup-bound Croatian national squad, according to the leading sports daily Sportske Novosti.
Spiranovic, who was recently accepted into Australian Institute of Sport development program, is described as a robust striker with exceptional dexterity on and off the ball.
The interest in Spiranovic is expected to rekindle tensions between Croatia and Australia, who have been drawn together in Group F of this year's World Cup in Germany. Also in the group are Japan and five-time champion Brazil.
Croatia and Australia have already clashed over loyalties.
The Croatian team presently has three players - Joey Didulica, Anthony Seric and Joe Simunic - who opted to represent the country of their origin rather than the country of their birth.
On the other hand, Australia has eight players of Croatian heritage in its squad, including captain Mark Viduka and midfielder Josip Skoko, who have had spells with Croatia's leading clubs.
Australia, a multicultural haven for millions of immigrants, made it to the World Cup after a 32-year hiatus and is eager to stem the flow of its homegrown talent offshore, the AP reports.