Schwarzer says tough road no surprise
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer believes the Socceroos are perhaps victims of their own success as they face a far more complex World Cup scenario than the one the country has got used to.
Cruising through the 2010 World Cup campaign to secure qualification with two games to spare, their last two matches this time around are must-win.
It has put the spotlight on whether Asia's deposed No.1 team still has the aura - or the ability - to see off their lower-ranked rivals.
But Schwarzer believes qualifying through Asia was always going to be difficult for Australia.
It's just that circumstances - and some of their luck - was different in 2010.
"We said it last time around when we qualified for South Africa, I don't think anyone understood how difficult it was to get through Asia," Schwarzer said.
"In one way, we're sort of at fault for our own success last time around, because we made it look from a distance so easy.
"There were times, like when we played Bahrain away, we were terrible. We should have lost and got a goal in the 93rd minute to win the game.
"There were games where we had that little ounce of luck, but there are times in this campaign where we haven't had the luck we had last time.
"This campaign has shown everybody how difficult the qualifying stage is through Asia. But we still believe we're good enough to do it."
For Schwarzer, he hopes the games against Jordan in Melbourne on Tuesday night and Iraq in Sydney next week are nowhere near his last for his country in a career which has spanned 20 years.
The 40-year-old has made little secret of the fact that the current World Cup campaign will be his last, though he'd like to delay that retirement until Brazil next year.
Every match is now a grand final. And that suits Schwarzer, who still proved the quality he possesses with an extraordinary goalkeeping performance in the 1-1 draw with Japan last week.
"It's getting back to similar circumstances to what we faced in 2005 against Uruguay," Schwarzer said of the famous two-legged playoff and penalty shootout to win a 2006 World Cup finals berth.
"We've got two games that are must-wins, and I don't think it can be balanced more on a knife-edge than it is now.
"So we're hoping that the Australian public - and I'm sure they will - get behind the Socceroos as they have in the past.
"I hope we have a full stadium. I hope we have the support we need. It is a 12th man, and at times in the game, you need them to lift you.
"It will also intimidate the opposition, and that's what we need."
After his international debut in 1994, Schwarzer had to win his No.1 Socceroos keeper's spot the hard way as Mark Bosnich, who blocked his path for many years, fell on difficult times on and off-field.
Even at the 2006 World Cup finals, he lost his place to Zeljko Kalac for the crucial match against Croatia, only to regain it in the next match - and never relinquish it.
It's a journey that has made Schwarzer not only hungry to play every time his country needs him, but to oppose calls for younger players should be blooded just for the sake of it.
"Whenever I'm asked by my manager 'do I want a rest?', I say no.
"Give everyone a go, or try to prove that they're good enough to play in the national team?
"You've got to prove first and foremost at club level that you're good enough to be selected.
"Then secondly, you've got to prove in the camps and at any opportunity that you do receive, that you're good enough to play in the team and hold your position.
"I had that when I was first on the scene in the national team - you had to earn the right and earn the respect.
"None of this business of giving someone a go for the sake of giving someone a go."