Shot-stopper Schwarzer

AP

Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer played an important role in securing Australia's first World Cup appearance since 1974. Australians are HOPING that he recovers in time for the World Cup, writes ANDY HAMPSON.

Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer played an important role in securing Australia's first World Cup appearance since 1974. Australians are hoping that Schwarzer recovers in time for the World Cup from the fractured cheekbone he suffered during Boro's FA Cup semifinal defeat against West Ham. Schwarzer's stability will help him in the World Cup; he is now settled again at Boro, where he is the longest-serving player, after considering a move away from the club earlier in the year.

Schwarzer, regarded as a fine shot-stopper, was born in Sydney to German parents and began his footballing career with the Marconi Stallions club in his home city. In 1994 he moved to his parents' homeland and joined Dynamo Dresden. He quickly caught the eye, moving to Kaiserslautern the following summer and just a year later he was snapped up by Bradford City for GBP35,000.

His rapid ascent continued and he had little time to settle in West Yorkshire as he was picked up by Premier League club Middlesbrough in a GBP1.5 million deal after just four months in England. He has truly established himself on Teesside, serving the club with distinction since arriving in February 1997.

Schwarzer committed himself fully to the club and made himself unavailable for Australia selection to concentrate on his career at The Riverside Stadium. He reversed that decision in 2000 and has since become the Socceroos' first-choice goalkeeper succeeding Mark Bosnich.

Schwarzer had a difficult start at Boro, suffering immediate relegation and breaking a leg. He lost his place in the Boro side but soon returned to help the club back into the top flight and he has been almost a permanent fixture since, injuries aside.

The Aussie won his first winners' medal in 2004 as Boro beat Bolton in the Carling Cup final. They have played in the UEFA Cup in the two seasons since, and are in the final this year against Seville, which unfortunately Schwarzer will miss because of his fractured cheekbone.

The injury might well lead to the Aussie goalkeeper's lowest point in football. The 33-year-old's collision with Hammers forward Dean Ashton at Villa Park means that he is struggling to be fit by the time the World Cup starts in Germany, although initial reports suggest that his recovery should take around a month and therefore he might just be able to make the big one. Schwarzer married wife Paloma in 1998 and they have two children, Julian and Amaya. They live together in the affluent North Yorkshire town of Harrogate.

Schwarzer speaks German and Spanish as well as English and lists deep-sea fishing among his hobbies. He admits he is superstitious and has worn the same pair of shin pads since he was 19. The Aussie is the owner of two cars, a Volkswagen Touareg and a Land Rover Discovery. The Touareg costs between GBP28,000 and GBP50,000 depending on the model. The Discovery prices start at GBP26,995 for the TDV6 five-seater and rise to GBP46,995 for the top-range V8 HSE 7-seater.

* * * FACTFILE Position: Goalkeeper Club: Middlesbrough DOB: October 6, 1972 Australia Caps: 37 Australia Goals: 0 Australia Debut: v Canada, July 1993 Moment to remember:

Schwarzer made himself a national hero with two saves in a penalty shootout against Uruguay to secure Australia's place in the World Cup finals. Australia had been beaten 1-0 in the first leg of the play-off but won the second in Sydney by the same score to take the tie to penalties. Schwarzer's heroics prompted huge celebrations across the country. It was not the first time he had been a penalty hero, his save from Manchester City's Robbie Fowler on the final day of last season having secured the club's place in the UEFA Cup.

Moment to forget:

Middlesbrough's European exploits and Australia's passage to the World Cup have made this a memorable season for Schwarzer, but it has not all been plain sailing. The turn of the year was a tough time for him as he fell out of favour following his transfer request. The affair, at least, spared him the indignity of Boro's 7-0 thrashing by Arsenal, as he was kept on the bench, but he conceded four in a 4-0 home hammering by Aston Villa soon after his return. It was a miserable afternoon for Boro with a fan protesting at the poor display by throwing his season ticket at manager Steve McClaren.

* * * WHAT THEY SAID

"I have a message for the president that I like him, I hold him in high esteem, and I thank him for the opportunity he gave me to speak to England."

— Luiz Felipe Scolari praises Portuguese Football Federation president Gilberto Madail and hints he may extend his contract with Portugal after rejecting the chance to manage England.

"I'm surprised that they've gone for Scolari. He's got great credentials by winning the World Cup, but he did it with Brazil; my granny could probably have managed Brazil to World Cup success."

— Former England striker Gary Lineker on hearing the news that Scolari was the FA's top choice.

"A couple of days ago I was thinking about Riquelme because he was likely to take a possible penalty. I said to myself that if he was going to take it then probably I am going to go to my left because from his body shape he seems to be a player who goes to the left — and I was lucky on that."

— Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann reveals how he had planned for a Juan Roman Riquelme penalty, and how the planning paid off.

"He gave me a tip but I did not follow him."

— Lehmann reveals that captain Thierry Henry's advice for the Riquelme penalty proved flawed.

"It's going to be a very proud moment leading out the team as the skipper in Paris because everyone knows I come from the suburbs of Paris. It's a great story and I'm sure it's going to be a great day. Even in another place the emotion would be the same. It would be a very proud moment to lift the cup if we won it."

— Arsenal skipper Thierry Henry looks forward to the Champions League final, where his team will play Barcelona.

"I would go anywhere in the world to play a Champions League final but it will cost me a few more tickets in Paris."

— Frenchman Arsene Wenger expects to be in demand for tickets ahead of Arsenal's European showdown against Barcelona.

"People watching him in internationals are asking `why isn't he getting a game for Chelsea?' Only Jose Mourinho can answer that. If he has a great World Cup he should get in Chelsea's first team. If he doesn't, I'll be saying, `Shaun, you've got to start thinking about this'. He needs to be playing regular football — that's all he wants, playing football and achieving success."

— Former England striker Ian Wright on stepson Shaun Wright-Phillips.

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