'We were totally distracted': The surprise behind Schwarzer's Socceroos debut
Mark Schwarzer’s Socceroos debut arrived in quite extraordinary circumstances 27 years ago against Canada in a crunch qualifier for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
The Socceroos were on course to secure a place in the FIFA World Cup 1994 in America after they topped their group in Oceania and beat New Zealand in the playoffs to book their meeting with Canada in the CONCACAF-OFC play-off.
The first leg of the play-off took place in Canada in July 1993, with Schwarzer on the bench alongside Socceroos captain, Paul Wade.
Wade recalls what him and Schwarzer were doing on the sideline prior to the shot stopper making his debut.
“Mark and I were sitting there counting the Aussie flags in the crowd, that’s how cheesed off we were for sitting on the bench, we were totally distracted,” Wade told Socceroos.com.au.on
However, those distractions did not last for too long after drama unfolded on the pitch when Socceroos goalkeeper Robert Zabica was given his marching orders in the 17th minute.
Zabica’s sending off came as quite a shock to the pair on the bench as a 20-year-old Schwarzer was forced to refocus and prepare himself for his Socceroos debut.
Wade remembered just how the young goalkeeper reacted when coach Eddie Thomson called him up.
“He was a very chilled man; he had no reason to be stressed and he certainly wasn’t,” Wade said.
Schwarzer was unfortunately unable to mark his debut with a win after Australia fell 2-1 to Canada in the first leg, however the return leg in Sydney a fortnight later saw the goalkeeper have a huge impact between the sticks.
Frank Farina put the Socceroos ahead with an incredible bicycle kick on the stroke of halftime before Canada pulled one back shortly after the break.
A Mehmet Durakovic goal with just under a quarter hour remaining pushed the match into extra time, however penalties were needed to split the two sides on this occasion.
Australia’s World Cup hopes now hinged on the 20-year-old’s penalty saving capabilities.
His performance in the shootout was nothing short of spectacular as he saved not one but two of the visitors’ spot kicks to ensure that his side progressed to the final stage of qualifiers, a play-off against Argentina.
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