Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 44-The First Time Mark Schwarzer Was a Socceroo Hero (1993)

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After dispensing with New Zealand in the Oceania region the 1993 version of the Socceroos were again led on a merry adventure to parts unknown with the qualifying campaign leading them to Canada for their next play off to get to USA 94. The Canadians must have fancied themselves in CONCACAF this time around with the US already in as hosts and the rest of the entrants a rabble. In the final four team group (the top spot qualifying) Canada were up there until the end but a home loss to Mexico saw the best team in the region go through (not Canada) and the Canucks would play off against us over two legs.

The first leg would be played in Edmonton and coach Eddie Thompson had some great talent at his disposal including the Vidmar brothers, the Vidmar brother’s hair, Frank Farina, Paul Okon, Ned Zelic and captain Alex Tobin. Zelic was the new golden boy after his wonder goal against Holland to send Australia to the 92 Olympics and subsequent move to Europe. One player not be part of the set up was Mark Bosnich who had ‘retired’ from international football due this conflict with Aston Villa so West Australian and Adelaide City keeper (and now fast bowler in Fremantle Divisional Cricket) Robbie Zabica came in. The Canadians featured some players that graced the benches and pitches of the higher leagues in Europe including Craig Forrest, Ipswich Town legend Frank Yallop and the flying striker Alex Bunbury.

In the Canadian sunshine on a pitch with grass that was a little too long the first leg was cagey until a mess up by golden boy Zelic saw a Canadian striker in on goal but Zabica rushed off his line and collected the ball that also meant taking out the opposition player. The Mexican referee saw no option but to send off the second best keeper in the eyes of Eddie and Zabica was off for an early bath. Who to bring on? Well, it was South Melbourne legend Mehmet Durakovic who came off and he was replaced by a young 20 year old tall streak of piss who looked a tad gangly, a little weird and had been left out of the youth side that had done so well in Portugal at the World Youth Cup in 1991 for Bosnich and was still plugging away for Marconi in the NSL.

The keeper was one Mark Schwarzer.

Down to 10 men the Socceroos made Canada work for everything and put enough pressure on them that the messed up with a goal on half time. Zelic beat two defenders and his dangerous cross was put in to the back of the net by Nick Dasovic who was looking to put the ball out for a corner. In the second half the Australians tired and the Canadians got on top thanks to their two attacking players that had come on at half time. Only seven minutes in to the second half Schwarzer fisted a ball straight to Mark Watson who nailed the shot, 1-1. It was 2-1 just another five minutes later when Mobilio scored after a goalmouth scramble. The visitors managed to hang on to a 2-1 deficit with an away goal to take back to Australia after the Canadians laid siege on the Australian goal like the Germans on Stalingrad.

The return leg would be ankle deep in news about whether Bosnich would get off his fat arse and come back to replace Zabica but he was happy in Birmingham so Schwarzer would be given a baptism of fire against the Canadians who had enjoyed a low key build up. With their new uniforms from Adidas and the cool customer that is Milan Ivanovic back in at the back the Socceroos dominated the Canadians who resorted to dirty time wasting tactics and virtual assault to try and quell their plucky fellow commonwealth dwellers. It should have been 3-0 after 15 minutes but thanks to one of the Vidmar’s hitting the upright and Van Blerk wasting a chance it stayed 0-0.

The Japanese ref lost control of the game more and more with the visitors hacking the bone to their heart’s content until on half time when Farina did a brilliant bicycle kick after Aurelio Vidmar had headed down a free kick to make it 1-0, finally! In the second half Canada did their work from the bench again it and again the outsmarted Eddie. Hooper scored on 55 minutes when his hopeful shot snuck in on Schwarzer’s far post after he had danced the dance with Tony Vidmar and left him for dead. With a pocket of Canadians in the corner of the Sydney Football Stadium celebrating Canada sat back and let Australia come at them safe in the knowledge they had been woeful in front of goal so far.

With David Mitchell on for an injured Robbie Slater Australia pressed for a goal and after heaps of pressure scored a goal from nowhere when Durakovic managed to punish the mistake by Forrest after he chose not to come off the line, 2-1 and all even on aggregate 3-3 with the Sydney Football Stadium rocking. The 90 minutes finished with a punch being thrown at the Australian bench and Mitchell banging heads with Sweeney that forced the latter off but it would go to extra time. With another head clash and more somewhat suspect Canadian tackling the 30 minutes ticked away and it would go down to penalties. Paul Wade was first up and sent Forrest the wrong way.

On his return to the centre circle Wade revved up the crowd. Dale Mitchell was first up for Canada and it was almost a carbon copy of the previous shot. Aurelio Vidmar was next for Australia and Forrest guessed the right way this time and his hands got to the ball and deflected the ball about half the distance that he should have. Aurelio was lucky but very happy. Alex Bunbury was next cab off the rank for Canada and he took a short stop-start approach. Alex shot right of Schwarzer and Mark went the same way and managed to stop the ball with his right hand. Crowd goes mad and simultaneously all get stomach cramps. Alex Tobin was next for Australia and blasted the ball right of Forrest, Craig had guessed the right way but the ball was past him before he could do much about it.

Mike Sweeney was next for Australia and he seemed to have seen the Holland-Denmark Euro ’92 game because he was insisting the ball be taken from the spot. Personally I’m not a big fan of these antics, but when push comes to shove I have to say I wanted Australia to win and this was as good a way as any. Needless to say Sweeney missed when he tried to hit the ball straight at Schwarzer. The diving Schwarzer stuck out his right hand as he fell to his left and stopped the ball. After the match Schwarzer admitted his actions were designed purely to distract Sweeney, a hero was born.

Farina was up next and wasted no time in shooting the ball into the roof of the net to seal Canada’s fate and ensure Australia’s passage to the penultimate stage to qualification in front of a now rabid 25,000 or so Australian fans in downtown Sydney town, a win to savor. Schwarzer was a hero and would have been expected to keep his spot but Bosnich would come back of course for the big games and so began a long period of time where the was bitterness and name calling in the media between the powers that be and Schwarzer but we forgave him.

There were bigger fish to fry in this campaign and it would lead to one of the greats coming out of retirement but this time win was one to appreciate the fighting spirit of the 1993 Socceroos side including the new penalty hero Schwarzer. For some of us (including myself) this was also one of the first Socceroos game we would get in to and certainly lost the last, there was plenty of drama on that lazy afternoon in Sydney and is definitely a memorable moment.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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