‘Superman’ Souttar typifies Scottish influence on Aussie squad

Solid defending: Australia’s Harry Souttar (in black) did a fantastic job stopping Tunisia’s Taha Khenissi. — AFP

MITCHELL Duke was the goalscoring hero when Australia beat Tunisia to claim their first World Cup win in 12 years but nothing summed up the Socceroos’ performance in that game quite like the last-ditch goal-saving tackle from giant centreback Harry Souttar.

Souttar was likened by one commentator to Superman as the hulking 1.98m-tall defender, put in a colossal display at Al Janoub Stadium, and clips of his brilliant challenge on Tunisia’s Taha Yassine Khenissi in that game have gone viral online.

It was not just the 24-year-old’s performance as Australia kept a first World Cup clean sheet since 1974 that was remarkable, but also the simple fact that he is in Qatar with Graham Arnold’s side.

Souttar spent a year on the sidelines after suffering a serious knee injury in a World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia.

He only just returned in the nick of time to play one game for his club Stoke and made the Australian squad.“I’ve only played three games so I don’t think I’m 100% fit but I give 100% in every game,” he said, but in any case the last year was especially trying for other reasons.

His elder brother Aaron died of motor neurone disease in July, putting everything into perspective for a player who was born in Aberdeen in Scotland.

His other brother John, who now plays for Rangers, chose to represent Scotland but Harry opted for Australia, for whom he was eligible through his mother.

It is a decision he clearly doesn’t regret and his performances in Qatar have also delighted John, even if he could be jealous of his sibling after Scotland failed to qualify.“I spoke with him after the game and he’s delighted with me,” Harry said at Australia’s training base in Doha.

“We speak every day and we have become a lot closer over the past year.

“In terms of the Australia thing, I got the phone call and it was a very simple decision from my point of view, and it is probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”

The number of Australians with Scottish heritage is considerable and the Scottish influence is striking throughout the Socceroos’ squad.

As well as Souttar there is Jason Cummings, a striker who was capped for Scotland before opting to switch to Australia in time for the World Cup – he was eligible via his Perth-born mother.

Then there is Martin Boyle, an Aberdeen-born winger who plays in Scotland for Hibernian but whose father is from Down Under.

He would have been a key player in Qatar is he had not been struck down by a knee injury just before the tournament, although he has remained with the squad.

“We have moved him into the staff now as ‘OVM’ – Official Vibe Manager – to keep all the boys up, because he is just one of the most fantastic blokes you will meet in your life,” said Arnold. — AFP

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