As he sat back in his home in Split last year, following Croatia’s campaign at the UEFA European U-19 Championship, Ivan Lendric little suspected that twelve months later he would be part of the squad taking part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011.

As it was, the young striker, who celebrates his 20th birthday next Monday, received a call-up from coach Ivan Grnja, and repaid the faith shown in him by scoring Croatia’s first goal of the tournament against Nigeria on Wednesday.

A moment to remember spoke to the gifted forward about the moment he received the summons for Colombia: “When the coach rang me to say I was taking part in in the FIFA U-20 World Cup it was an indescribable sensation,” said Lendric. “My family was blown away, as well. There’s nothing to compare with playing for your country at a World Cup.”

And while the striker has to spend a large amount of his time away from family, he has been quick to embrace the lifestyle. “They accepted the situation because they know this is the career I’ve chosen. I’m a professional footballer and this is what football is about! Mind you, I call them every day so they don’t miss me.”

Exciting as it was to be selected, that moment pales in significance to the achievement of scoring his country’s first goal at the tournament. “It was a particularly amazing feeling because I wasn’t even in the side for the UEFA European U-19 Championship, plus the fact that I got the goal at the perfect moment, right at the end of the first half, which gave the team a chance to come back strongly after the break," Lendric said. "As it turned out, though, Nigeria were too much for us.”

You are surrounded by the best young players in the world and that can only help me in my future career.

Ivan Lendric, Croatian forward

Lendric was full of praise for a Nigerian side, who have dealt crushing defeats to Group D opponents Guatemala and Croatia. “We started poorly and conceded two goals in the first thirty minutes. You can’t let Nigeria take the initiative. We should have got ourselves on the scoreboard first and made them chase the game, then perhaps the result might have been a little different.”

Hungry for more
Now that he has achieved his dream of scoring a goal for Croatia, Hajduk Split attacker is eyeing a future with the senior national team. “My ultimate goal is to run out for the Croatia first team and if I manage to score a ton of goals then all the better!”

Lendric spoke about his impending move to Portuguese club Sporting Braga and revealed that he is working to raise his game to the same standard as his idol Fernando Torres. “I might look a bit like him, but the real point is to try and play like him,” Lendric said laughing.

In closing, Lendric reflected on what he has gained from taking part at Colombia 2011. “It’s the experience, more than anything else. You are surrounded by the best young players in the world and that can only help me in my future career.”