2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

Old heads lead Asian charge

While speedy young legs can turn a match and inspire a team, often a wily old head can be just what is required in football - especially when it comes to goalkeepers.

Certainly, nations right across the globe continue to draw inspiration from the contributions of their aging stars. Asia's top teams are counting on the experience, quality and leadership of their reliable old hands going into matchday two of the continent's third stage of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

FIFA.com turns its gaze to a pair of Asia's most established and experienced stars - Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi of Japan and Mark Schwarzer of Australia - both of whom are expected to figure prominently in their nations' respetive campaigns.

Kawaguchi the evergreen
Japan's next qualifier against Bahrain on 26 March marks the 114th international appearance for goalkeeper Kawaguchi, who turns 33 this August.

The Jubilo Iwata No1 was Japan's first choice between the posts in two of their three FIFA World Cup finals - in their debut at France 1998 and their latest outing at Germany 2006, only giving up the position to Seigo Marazaki under former French coach Philippe Troussier.

At only 1.78m, the comparatively small Kawaguchi is renowned for his positioning and shot-stopping, abilities which have only improved with the passage of time. He kept his cool to secure Japan a penalty shoot-out victory over Australia in last July's AFC Asian Cup before going on to play a key role in his side's 4-1 victory against Thailand in their opening qualifying match for South Africa 2010. Despite the large margin, Kawaguchi repeatedly blamed himself for the conceded goal, which came only a minute after Yasuhito Endo broke the deadlock with a free-kick for Japan.

"That goal I conceded, which was Thailand's quick equaliser, really took the wind out of us," he reflected, "Lessons must be learned and we always have to keep our composure especially after we score."

Even though he is his own harshest critic, Kawaguchi has no doubts that he and his Japanese mates are improving and will return from Manama with the full three points. "We will make progress as long as we overcome the pressure. And we need keep in mind the result is the most important thing."

Schwarzer swansong
Having made the Aussie national goalkeeper jersey his own for so long, 35-year-old Mark Schwarzer is aiming to do his all to help his team qualify for their second consecutive FIFA World Cup finals.

"I said straight after the 2006 World Cup that my goal was to go through to South Africa 2010," claimed the Middlesbrough keeper, who wrote his name into the history books by twice denying Uruguay in the play-off penalty shootout to earn Australia their place at the world's showpiece at Germany 2006, their first appearance on the world stage for 32 years. "As long as I'm playing at the highest club level, I still believe I can play for my country as well."

Despite being in the twilight of his career, Schwarzer has bodly insisted that he intends making the gruelling journey from England for every match of his swansong qualfying campaign. "This is my last campaign and I am available for every single game."

Schwazer was in at the start for Australia's opening 3-0 win against Qatar on 6 February, during which he was rarely troubled. However, he knows the Socceroos' next fixture against China will be no walkover. "The China test is going to be very hard for us as they are playing at home. However, we have been there before so I think we can go there and do it again," he said, citing Australia's 2-0 friendly win in China last March.

With former captain Craig Moore announcing his retirement from international play after the Qatar game, the task of leading the team now falls on Schwazer's broad shoulders. And he vows to throw all his weight behind the cause: "We believe we will qualify and I am going to give my all to play a big role in that process."

Explore this topic

Recommended Stories

2010 FIFA World Cup™

Korean showdown in Shanghai

25 Mar 2008