Harry Souttar injury caps off a disappointing night for Socceroos

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A suspected ACL injury for star centre back Harry Souttar has capped off a disappointing evening for the Socceroos, as they were held to a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia on Thursday night in World Cup qualifying.

Torrential rain couldn’t keep away the 23,314 fans who filled Western Sydney Stadium for Australia’s homecoming, some two years in the making.

Unfortunately for those in green and gold, it was a frustrating night complete with half chances and an injury to one of Australia’s, and Asia’s, brightest stars.

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After attempting to defend one of Saudi Arabia’s numerous late offensive attacks, Souttar fell to the ground.

Despite the ball not yet being cleared, he stayed down in the middle of the box.

When Mat Ryan ended up making the save and the ball went out, he continued to lay there.

After a stretcher arrived and he was placed on it, the hearts of every Australian fan in the stadium, and the millions around the country, all simultaneously dropped.

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Whilst it has not yet been confirmed as an ACL, Australian coach Graham Arnold fears that it could be a long-term injury.

“It’s very serious,” he said. “He’s getting scanned first thing tomorrow morning but I don’t think he will be coming to the UAE for the China game.”

It could not have come at a worse time either for the near two-metre-tall centre back, nor for the Socceroos.

If rumours are to be believed Souttar was within touching distance of the Premier League, with numerous clubs including Everton and Tottenham reportedly eyeing the Stoke City defender as a potential January signing.

Whilst this doesn’t mean that he will never reach the Premier League, if his upcoming scans confirm the worst, it at least puts his aspirations on hold.

That isn’t even mentioning the fact that we are only around 12 months away from the next World Cup.

Should Australia qualify, Souttar would want nothing more than to be on that plane to Qatar.

For Arnold, whilst he was happy with the performance, the disappointment for Souttar was clear.

“At this moment I’m just really down and devastated for Harry,” he said. “I believe that he is the best centre back in Asia and if it turns out to be a bad injury it isn’t just a blow for Harry, but for us as well.”

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Souttar was having a stellar performance before the incident, containing a Saudi Arabian attack which had scored three or more goals in six of their last eight matches before Thursday’s game.

Whilst the visitors did end up having the run of the last section of the match, many, including Arnold, believe that his injury was the exact moment momentum swung in the favour of the Saudi’s.

“When you see such a great guy carried off in a stretcher mentally, probably, it had a bit of an effect on them,” he said. “At the end of that we were a bit sloppy for ten minutes.”

Whilst the result on Thursday was disappointing, that can easily be forgotten by a big win against China this coming Wednesday.

Souttar’s injury on the other hand leaves a massive hole for Arnold to fill.

Milos Degenek, who ended up coming on for Souttar on Thursday night, is the obvious replacement. He has played over thirty times for the Socceroos and has experience working with Trent Sainsbury, so he is the most apparent candidate.

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Whilst Degenek can comfortably fill the position left defensively, it is in attack where he will struggle to emulate Harry’s abilities.

Having scored six goals in his handful of Socceroos caps, Souttar’s threat in the box off set pieces is unrivalled by anyone in Asian football. With Australia’s well documented history of struggling to score in the post Cahill-era, these goals have proven, and will continue to be, vital.

Every long throw and corner is now directed to him, and similar to Tim Cahill he is now the focal point of nearly all set pieces. Degenek on the other hand has scored just once for the Aussies.

The Socceroos have begun to set up in a way that compliments their giant centre defender’s aerial abilities, and with only a year until the World Cup that style was more than likely their plan heading into Qatar.

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Whether he is going to be ready for Qatar with enough football under his belt is one question, but it certainly isn’t ideal for Australia to unexpectedly lose one of their most crucial players.

A result like tonight’s, in front of over 20,000 football starved fans, will likely be forgotten in a few months’ time with a couple of good results. Whilst disappointing, draws against group leaders happen.

The effects of Souttar’s injury on the other hand will have long-term ramifications for the national team and was the true disappointment of the night for the Socceroos.

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William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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