DOHA, Qatar — Australia defender Harry Souttar‘s man-of-the-match performance in the Socceroos’ 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday has been hailed by teammate Jackson Irvine as one of the best individual displays he’s ever seen in a green and gold shirt.
Backed by coach Graham Arnold to resume his defensive partnership with Kye Rowles against the Eagles of Carthage despite being on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline against France in Australia’s opening game of the tournament, Souttar repaid his manager’s faith tenfold at the Al Janoub Stadium with a titanic defensive display.
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Winning headers, blocking crosses and throwing himself about with reckless abandon in a game in which the Socceroos rode their physicality to a vital win, the Scottish-born centre-back won 100% of his tackles and ground duels attempted across the afternoon. He also made six clearances and blocked three Tunisian efforts on goal.
“He’s massive, isn’t he? Literally massive,” said teammate Riley McGree. “But he can move and he can play. He’s a very important player for us. So big respect to him and all the defenders.”
Two key moments in particular summed up Souttar’s performance, the first arriving just before half-time when he got back quickly as Tunisia broke and hurled himself in front of an effort from attacker Mohamed Drager to deny what looked to be a certain goal.
Then, with just two minutes remaining in the 90 and his teammates struggling to keep their legs moving beneath them, Souttar somehow found the energy to sprint back and slide across to shut down a breakaway from Tunisian substitute Taha Yassine Khenissi after a sloppy turnover from fatiguing Rowles.
“It’s right up there with the very best — midfielder, defender, or forward — it’s one of the best individual displays [for Australia] I’ve ever seen,” said Irvine.
“He doesn’t need to be told that, and he’s one of the first ones back in the dressing room saying we go again. That’s just the kind of person, and player that he is. He wants to always push us and push everybody further. He’s a leader at his age already.
“That moment, that tackle, we celebrated it almost more than the goal in certain ways. I think that will be played in years to come.”
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Adding to the impressiveness of his impressive performance and desperate chase-down, the game against Tunisia represented just Souttar’s third senior appearance since rupturing his ACL in a World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in November 2021.
At the time, he was the subject of reported transfer interest from Premier League sides Tottenham and Everton, only to instead be forced into a 12-month race to be fit for Qatar.
“I’ve only played three games so I don’t think I’m 100% but I’ll give 100% every game,” Souttar said. “Towards the end there, if you ask any of the lads, the legs were starting to go a bit in the last 10 minutes.
“When I saw the six minutes added on I thought ‘right’ let’s just get through it.’ And we got through it in the end.”
Souttar performance among best ever for Australia