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A new last line of defence is needed

Comment: Farewell to Mark Schwarzer, Australia's saviour

A new last line of defence is needed

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An ever-present between the posts for his country during the last two decades, the departure of Mark Schwarzer will leave a huge void, on and off the field

Mark Schwarzer has stood between the Socceroos and the abyss for 20 years

Saving Australia in penalty shootouts. Continually answering his country's call through a club career mostly played at Europe's highest level.

That the goalkeeper has chosen to end his international career now, seven months out from the World Cup he had marked as his last hurrah, is surprising, yet understandable.

It may be the case that Schwarzer read the wind, knew change was coming under a new Socceroos coach, the old guard was likely to be eased out, and with little game-time in prospect at English club Chelsea, felt his time was up.

It may be that Australia's promising goalkeeping stocks – traditionally strong but to a large degree still untapped as he has remained the number one choice – led him to make a selfless decision.

Either way, he leaves as he should. With glowing epitaph, halo shining and intact, and service to his country recognised above all. Others will not be so lucky.

For two decades, the Socceroos goalmouth has been Schwarzer's Superman phone box – where he has regularly donned the green and gold cape to save his country.

Beginning with his first starting appearance for the Socceroos against Canada, starring in a penalty shootout in a 1993 World Cup qualifier.

In the 2005 penalty shootout against Uruguay which sent us to the World Cup, John Aloisi's penalty was the decider.

But Schwarzer's two penalty saves in the same nail-biting contest were just as critical.

Between and since, he has saved his country countless times.

Schwarzer spoke as late as June's World Cup qualifiers – in which he again played a vital role in helping Australia through – of his wish to go on to another World Cup.

But a club move to Chelsea, where he was destined to be back-up goalkeeper, sounded alarm bells.

Could a 41-year-old not playing regularly be able to rise to a World Cup? Ultimately, the answer was no.

Like so many of the golden generation, Schwarzer started his career in the old National Soccer League – with Sydney club Marconi.

He has gone on to a long professional club career abroad – with Germany's Dynamo Dresden and Kaiserslautern, and four English clubs – three in the Premier League.

He quits as Australia's most-capped Socceroo with 109 appearances.

His errors have been few and far between. His heroics are numerous. His highlights reel is long.

Never has Australia had a more reliable last line.

Now it's up to someone else to save the day for the Socceroos. They have huge gloves to fill.

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