Second coming for World Cup savior Schwarzer

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By Ian Ransom

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hand-wringing over Australia's goal-scoring ability at the World Cup does not extend to doubts at the other end of the pitch where Mark Schwarzer holds court.

For many Australians, Schwarzer is the World Cup dream-maker. His two saves during a penalty shoot-out in a playoff qualifier against Uruguay in 2005 put Australia on the plane to Germany for their first finals appearance in 32 years.

Four years on, the Socceroos' fuss-free passage to the World Cup finals can also be credited in large part to Schwarzer, the most-capped goalkeeper in Australian history.

While other Europe-based players failed to board flights to far-flung Asian destinations in the final qualifying phase, the son of German immigrants put his hand up for all eight qualifiers, recording clean sheets in seven of them.

The goalkeeper will be a few months shy of his 38th birthday when Australia play their first match against Germany on June 13 and he says the World Cup will be the cherry on a very sweet cake for him.

Schwarzer's form for Fulham in the English Premier League helped the unfashionable London club to reach the Europa League final. "With the Europa League final, and for me the World Cup to come -- well, it doesn't get any better than this. I'm loving every minute," he said in early May.

Schwarzer, who has also represented Dynamo Dresden and Kaiserslautern in Germany and Middlesbrough in England, has a point to prove in South Africa after his campaign at the 2006 World Cup finals went awry from the start.

During the opening group match against Japan, Schwarzer conceded a soft goal after failing to intercept a cross, and he was dropped for the third match against Croatia after conceding two goals against Brazil.

Recalled for the knockout round against eventual champions Italy, Schwarzer, famed as a shot-stopper, faced the last-minute penalty that would end Australia's World Cup adventure.

He anticipated Francesco Totti's kick high and to the right, but his desperate lunge was not enough.

(Editing by Robert Woodward)