I’m not sure if there will be any debate because barring some unforeseen catastrophe Mark Schwarzer will wear the Number 1 shirt for the Socceroos in Brazil.
The move of Mark Schwarzer, ostensibly as a back-up for Petr Cech, to Chelsea and the possibility that he will not play regularly has opened the door for debate as to whether he should be Australia-s automatic number 1 pick in Brazil next year.
Schwarzer has said he will get enough games under his belt to be ready for next year-s World Cup where he will become the oldest keeper ever to play in the competition. Something he seems very keen to achieve.
Let-s be frank, I-m not sure if there will be any debate because barring some unforeseen catastrophe Mark Schwarzer will wear the Number 1 shirt for the Socceroos in Brazil. I just can-t see him being dropped. He has become an institution in the national team and I don-t think anyone is prepared to give him the “tap on the shoulder” whether warranted or not.
He will choose his own time to put the nail in the wall. Some will say he has earned the right to do so and historically it-s a fair point. He saved two penalties to get us to Germany in 2006 and had an outstanding qualifying series for 2010. I-d go as far as to say we wouldn-t have got to South Africa if it wasn-t for him. But then that-s what keepers are meant to do!
However players, especially keepers must be picked on form, not history. If Mark Schwarzer isn-t playing then he must be considered just the same as the other guys vying for the spot. No-one should ever be guaranteed a Socceroo shirt.
Schwarzer has been first choice for the Socceroos whenever he has been available, form not really considered. And to be fair he hasn-t made too many mistakes. He has been a consistent performer at club and international level. In the interim however we-ve never really found out if anyone else is up to it.
Those that have filled in the gaps have always had the spectre of Schwarzer sitting on their shoulder.
Suppose the worst case scenario occurs and he is off his game or worse, injured which is a possibility when you are training only. Who is going to play? Brad Jones, Adam Federici and more recently, and deservedly, Eugene Galekovic are the senior contenders along with relative youngsters Mitch Langerak and Matt Ryan.
Jones and Federici have been in the UK a long time but haven-t played a lot of regular football, something that is important for a keeper. They haven-t really been able to build the resilience you get from the pressure of playing game after game. They have had the odd game for the Socceroos but with barely a handful of senior caps each they have never really been able to give Schwarzer a run for his money. They are both very good keepers but have always been on the back foot at Socceroo level because of a lack of regular games at club level.
Galekovic has been an outstanding A-League performer for 6 years now and recently excelled for the Socceroos in the East Asian Cup. Whether he could take his great form to the level required at World Cup Finals is the big question.
Langerak spent some time in the A-League before a big move to Germany where he too has struggled for regular game-time. To his credit, and this is important, when he has played he has done well. He has presence and to me he is the most natural replacement for Schwarzer.
I thought he was outstanding during his time at Melbourne Victory despite his age then- he is almost 25 now. Ryan has recently moved to Club Brugge in Belgium and has been fortunate in becoming first pick because of injury to the regular keeper. He was a big reason Central Coast were so successful of late and at 21 is a future Socceroo incumbent. He was the best in the League at playing with his feet, an essential part of goalkeeping these days and was great off his line. He played like another defender at times he was so far out of his box. Whether he will be able to do this at his new club remains to be seen.
The facts are these. No matter the circumstances 12 months from now we will be looking for a new Number 1. Mark Schwarzer has had a mortgage on the position for a long time now and more than a few keepers that maybe could have done the job have never really had the chance. That-s the way it is in professional football, especially when you are a goalkeeper.
There are a couple of really good youngsters available now that will need some fast-tracking to make the transition to become regular Socceroo starters. So the time between now and Brazil will be interesting. Decisions, hard decisions will need to be made for the future, not just the here and now and someone is going to miss out. The easy choice is to leave out the kids but that doesn’t mean it-s the right one.