Luka Prelevic looking to make mark for All Whites

Luka Prelevic. Photo / Getty
Luka Prelevic. Photo / Getty

He has a silver fern tattooed on his foot and Luka Prelevic will now also be wearing one on his chest when the All Whites' OFC Nations Cup campaign kicks off on Saturday.

Coach Anthony Hudson turned to the young attacker after the late withdrawal of Shane Smeltz due to injury and Prelevic is looking to make the most of an opportunity he hadn't seen coming.

"It was unfortunate how I got called into the squad because of Smeltzy's injury but nonetheless I'm over the moon to finally get a chance to represent my country at senior level," he says.

While clearly catching the eye of Hudson, Prelevic has flown under the radar of most fans in New Zealand after playing the majority of his football across the ditch.

He came onto the club scene as a promising 17-year-old with the Port Melbourne Sharks several years ago before starring for the youth team of each of Melbourne's two A-League franchises - the Victory and City - and is now with Pascoe Vale SC.

He is no stranger to the international game though, having been part of the wider training squad for the FIFA U-20 World Cup before going on to also represent his country at U-23 level.

Crucially, he has previous experience of playing for the latter in the heat and humidity of Port Moresby, the same Papua New Guinea city the Nations Cup will be staged in.

He will look to draw upon that in breaking his way into the All Whites line-up but knows how difficult it could prove with the likes of Chris Wood, Rory Fallon, Kosta Barbarouses, Jeremy Brockie and Marco Rojas around, not to mention the youthful exuberance of Logan Rogerson and Monty Patterson.

But, if called upon, Prelevic believes he has something he can add to what is looking like a potent attacking mix for Hudson.

"Hopefully, I can bring an attacking threat, score a few goals and create a few chances. I'll just do what I can for the team really," the humble 20-year-old says.

Although he has lived in New Zealand only briefly himself, he has a Kiwi mother and there is no doubt about where his allegiances lie - hence the silver fern tattoo.

If he is able to force his way into Hudson's plans, Prelevic is clear about what his next goal will be.

"Obviously, I want to get a professional contract as soon as possible and take my career as high as I can," he says.

"At the moment, I'm pretty stoked to have got an All Whites call up so hopefully I can build from this."

A good way of doing so would be to make an impact at the Nations Cup, which starts for New Zealand with a match against Fiji on Saturday.

The opening fixture of the tournament, the Group B game takes place at Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby at 4pm local time and will be screened LIVE on SKY Sport Pop-up Channel 056 from 5.50pm (NZT).

- NZ Herald

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