How Schwarzer's Socceroos career could've ended just after it started
A peculiar comment made to Mark Schwarzer at the start of his international career helped ignite the most decorated goalkeeping career Australia has ever seen.
A mistake from Schwarzer on his starting debut lead to Canada’s opening goal in a crunch play-off for the FIFA World Cup 1994 before his penalty shootout heroics saw the Socceroos progress to the next round of qualifying.
And in a recent interview with Socceroos.com.au, Schwarzer recalled the comment made days before the match by a member of Australia’s coaching staff that spurred him on.
“The session I found out I was playing, I was doing a few drills and thought I was doing well,” Schwarzer told Socceroos.com.au.
“We were doing a drill where it was crossing and finishing and I was taking my rest out of the goal and Raul Blanco (the assistant coach) comes over to me and whispers ‘if you don’t sort yourself out you could be out of this team as quickly as you came into it’”.
He added: “I don’t know what his intentions were. But I thought, 'I’m going to have to prove you wrong'”.
Schwarzer went on to make his first start between the sticks for the return leg in Sydney with a grit between his teeth.
Frank Farina opened the scoring with a spectacular bicycle kick on the stroke of halftime before Canada equalised just after the break.
A Mehmet Durakovic goal with less than 15 minutes remaining pushed the match into extra time, however penalties were needed to split the two sides.
The Socceroos' FIFA World Cup hopes now hinged on the shot-stopping skills of a 20-year-old goalkeeper.
Schwarzer would go on to save two penalties in an incredible performance that ensured Australia’s progression to the final stage of qualifiers, a play-off against Diego Maradonna’s Argentina.
It was a massive moment in Schwarzer’s young career and upon reflection he understands how important this one match against Canada was.
“If I don’t make those saves it probably would’ve taken me longer to go overseas,” he claimed.
“It put me on peoples' radars because I was performing on a certain level.”
Schwarzer would go on to play a record 109 times for Australia including a similarly amazing performance in a penalty shoot-out against Uruguay which sent Australia to its first FIFA World Cup in 32 years.
Despite the glittering highs of his international career Schwarzer again referred to brutal Blanco’s words as a stark reminder for him to remain grounded.
“Whether it was right or wrong, what Blanco said is the reality because you can be out of the team as quickly as you got in the team,” he explained.
“Anyone who’s played at an elite level for their country would recognise that that’s the case.
“That’s the reality of professional sport.”
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