Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has announced his retirement from international football.
The 41-year-old notified Football Federation Australia (FFA) of his decision on Wednesday morning, just hours before new coach Ange Postecoglou was due to name his first Socceroos squad for this month’s friendly against Costa Rica.
His retirement further opens the door to a bunch of talented goalkeepers vying to make the squad for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, including Mitch Langerak, Eugene Galekovic and youngster Mathew Ryan.
The 2014 showpiece was expected to be Schwarzer’s third and final World Cup campaign, having represented Australia in the 2006 and 2010 editions.
But Schwarzer’s recent move from being Fulham’s first-choice gloveman to powerhouse Chelsea, where he has been playing back-up to the established Petr Cech, raised questions as to whether he would be able to hold onto his starting role in the team.
Schwarzer was on the end of Australia’s 6-0 drubbing by Brazil in his last match for the national team in September.
However he has managed to keep two clean sheets in as many matches for Chelsea in the League Cup.
Socceroos team-mate Tim Cahill hailed Schwarzer as one of the country’s greatest footballers.
— Tim Cahill (@Tim_Cahill) November 5, 2013
Cahill said he was shocked to learn of Schwarzer’s decision.
“It’s incredible. I feel it’s a massive surprise from someone that I’ve looked up to my whole career,” Cahill told Fox Sports News from New York.
“He’s one of the greatest ambassadors to ever play the game, but most importantly a true gentlemen on and off the park.
“It’s a truly shocking night here in New York for me.”
Asked whether he thought 41-year-old Schwarzer had called time on his international career too soon, Cahill said it was difficult to say.
“He’s called it a day and players make up their own mind. Whether it’s the right time, no-one knows,” he said.
“But the best thing is he’s all class, the way he’s done it is exceptional.
“I feel Schwarzer’s seen the talent and he’s probably thought `You know what, the kids are ready and he stepped aside.
“It shows the true mark of a man that he can do what he’s done today, hang up his boots or gloves from playing internationally.”
While John Aloisi’s penalty sent Australia to the 2006 World Cup, and instantly entered folklore, he wouldn’t have got the chance without Schwarzer blocking two Uruguay penalties.
“We owe him a lot,” Aloisi said.
“I was feeling a little bit nervous before that last penalty that he saved. And once he saved it, the confidence came back.
“All I needed to do was put it in the back of the net, and thanks to Schwarzy, I was able to do that.”