Schwarzer's shootout heroics keep Socceroos' FIFA World Cup 1994 dream alive
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer marked his Socceroos starting debut in spectacular fashion by saving two penalties in a shootout to help Australia advance past Canada to the final phase of FIFA World Cup 1994 qualification.
With Australia ahead 2-1 after goals from Frank Farina and Mehmet Durakovic in regular time, the 3-3 aggregate scoreline saw the second leg play-off forced into an extra time period.
However, an additional 30 minutes didn't separate the two nations, and so the match was decided in a penalty shootout.
Fortunately for Australia, four converted penalties and Schwarzer's heroics saw the Socceroos win 4-1 in the shootout and keep their FIFA World Cup 1994 dream alive.
20-year-old Schwarzer explained how advice from Socceroos assistant coach Raul Blanco helped him save spot-kicks from Canadians Alex Bunbury and Mike Sweeney.
“I had a few words with Raul Blanco before the shootout started and he told me to hold my ground until the last moment,” said Schwarzer after the game.
“The shot from Bunbury wasn’t too far away Sweeney’s attempt was even closer. I’m stronger on my left side but noticed the first shot was angled to the right and decided to dive that way."
It was a historic night for Australian football, but it could've ended very differently.
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Early in the match, the Australians had been frustrated when their early dominance didn't impact the scoreline.
A fast start saw the Socceroos create but fail to convert multiple chances in the first five minutes, and their anguish would continue as they missed seven scoring chances in the first half.
But, on the stroke of half time, Frank Farina broke the deadlock with a phenomenal over-head kick.
“It was the best first half I’ve ever seen from an Australian side, with plenty of chances, but it was one of those times when the ball wouldn’t go in the net," said Australian coach Eddie Thomson.
However, the game took another turn shortly into the second period when Canada's Lyndon Hooper equalised in the 55th minute.
It brought back memories of the first leg, which saw Canada come back from a one goal deficit at half time to win 2-1 in Edmonton.
But this time the game was to end differently.
Australia rallied to equal the tie on aggregate and send the match to extra time and penalties through a superb Durakovic header in the 77th minute.
After a goalless extra time period, Paul Wade, Aurelio Vidmar, Alex Tobin and Farina all scored their penalties while Schwarzer made two saves to seal victory for the Socceroos.
“Frank Farina’s goal gave us a lift and we pushed players forward in the second half and got the goal we wanted," said Thomson.
"But we should have slaughtered them in extra time. It was still a great victory because people were knocking this team."
In the lead up to the do-or-die clash with Canada Eddie Thomson told The Canberra Times that he “was prepared to bet his house on Australia winning”.
“The bank manager was getting a bit worried,” Thomson joked in the post-match press conference.
Canadian coach Bobby Lenarduzzi was gracious in defeat and believes the Socceroos will be able to overcome their last hurdle and qualify for the FIFA World Cup 1994.
“I have no doubt that Australia has a chance against the team from South America," said Lenarduzzi.
"It has good individual players and it is well disciplined. We didn’t come to settle for a draw and credit has to go to the Australians.”
Now the Socceroos will face the nation that finishes second in CONMEBOL Group 1 (comprising of Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay & Peru) in a final two-legged play-off tie for a place at the FIFA World Cup 1994.