BRETT EMERTON is racing Mark Schwarzer to become the first Australian footballer to reach 100 international caps.
Emerton could not hide his excitement at the prospect of becoming a centurion, but admitted Schwarzer was more likely to reach the mark first.
The 33-year-old midfielder has represented Australia 91 times and, having been named in the Socceroos' squad to face Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, is confident of gaining nine more to reach the century benchmark.
''I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't love to achieve that milestone, but I'm just taking it week by week and day by day and Sydney FC is my priority,'' he said at the launch of Sydney FC's advertising partnership with UNICEF. ''But it's always an honour to represent your country and I'm creeping towards that one hundred … hopefully, I'll get there.''
Emerton will be sure to add to that tally on Wednesday night, when he is tipped to start for the Socceroos at AAMI Park in Melbourne. While the century is definitely within reach, the Sydney FC star said he is racing Schwarzer to the landmark.
''Just between us there is [a race], but I think he'll get there before me,'' Emerton said. ''He's a pretty stubborn the old bugger, but he's a few ahead of me and I think he'll be in the national team for a few more years to come … I think he'll pip me at the post, so good luck to him.''
Evergreen goalkeeper Schwarzer, 39, has represented Australia on three more occasions than Emerton and, with a firm grip on the position between the posts, he will be considered favourite to reach the mark first.
Emerton's bid to overtake his teammate will be boosted by his form which has mirrored Sydney's resurgence following two consecutive victories. However, there are still questions surrounding his fitness, having been forced off the field twice this season with a recurring hamstring injury, most recently on January 26. Facing a demanding schedule of three games in seven days, the marquee-man has declared he should be fit enough to handle the challenge after his rehabilitation with the club's physio staff.
Emerton has started in Sydney's last two matches following his spell on the sidelines and believes he is on the road to full fitness, with signs he is close to recovering from a foot injury he has carried since joining the Sky Blues last August.
Emerton's first reaction to Holger Osieck's squad announcement was delight for a Sydney teammate.
''It's always an honour to play, but I'm more excited about Nicky [Carle] being part of the squad and I think his performances have been rewarded with this call-up,'' Emerton said.