Souttar vows to put ‘frustrating’ Foxes experience behind him in Socceroos’ Asian Cup quest
Socceroos defender Harry Souttar insists a lack of club minutes won’t stop him from successfully leading Australia’s defence at the Asian Cup.
Towering central defender Souttar has been a rock of coach Graham Arnold’s defence but has been out of favour at English Championship leaders Leicester City.
But with Arnold’s backing, the 25-year-old is confident that he can hit his straps.
That will be crucial for Thursday night’s group stage match against Syria at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha (10.30pm KO AEDT), when Australia can effectively seal progression to the round of 16 from group B.
“Obviously, any player just wants to play football so I’m looking at it as a positive that I’m here and I’m getting minutes and playing football, doing what I love again,” Souttar said.
“Obviously at the club, for me personally, it’s been a frustrating time but the boys have done fantastic this season.
“They are where they are in the league for a reason. I can’t complain too much. If that’s what the manager wants, they’re doing a great job.
“I feel great. I think that I proved coming off my ACL injury in the World Cup, having not played football for a year, that I can come in and still play at a high level.
“It’s obviously different this time because I’ve been training and fit so I feel even better.
“You always want to pull that shirt on, it just gives you an added something. You’re running on adrenaline and you’re playing football for a different reason as well, which always helps.
“There’s always that little bit more of that something special in the air.”
Souttar has been linked to loan moves away from Leicester, including to clubs in Scotland and Saudi Arabia, but insisted he wasn’t focused on his club future.
“A club move has not even crossed my mind. As soon as I came into camp on the first it was just full concentration on what this tournament is and how we’re going to succeed,” he said.
“My full concentration is on Australia and I think it would be disrespectful to the country, my teammates, the staff here if my head was anywhere else and thinking about these other things when we’ve got a massive tournament here.
“All I will say is that obviously it’s not been great that I’ve not got match minutes at my club and obviously I know that that can’t continue if I want to be a part of the national team.”
Souttar will be a key goal scoring threat at set pieces but was adamant Australia could create chances from open play against likely a deep-lying Syria defence.
“I know it’s a bit cliche, but there’s no easy games in tournament football; everyone’s playing for something and they’re gonna make it really difficult,” he said.
“The players that we’ve gotten at the top end of the pitch and the quality that we have, we can certainly create a lot of opportunities.”
Qatar first through to KO rounds
Dumped out of their own World Cup at the earliest possible stage in 2022, Qatar look intent on sticking around at the Asian Cup.
The hosts and defending champions became the first team to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament on Wednesday after a 1-0 win against Tajikistan.
Akram Afif scored his third goal in two games to secure victory at Al Bayt Stadium and ensure Qatar go through as Group A winners.
It is all a far cry from the World Cup when, as hosts, Qatar exited the competition at the group stage after three straight losses.
Now maximum points from their opening two games have given Bartolome Lopez’s team the perfect start to their defence of the Asian Cup.
And it has one of the most impressive players of the tournament in Afif, who lifted a shot over Tajikstan goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov in the 17th minute for the only goal of the game.
The forward had spoken of his desire to return to Europe after spells in Spain and Belgium, and he is likely to have earned admirers for his performances so far for Qatar as the tournament’s leading scorer.
Tajikistan ended the game with 10 men after Amadoni Kamolov was sent off in the 81st.
After back-to-back draws, China probably need at least a point against Qatar to have a chance of advancing to the knockout stage as a 0-0 draw with Lebanon earlier in the day had left both nations’ hopes of reaching the round of 16 in the balance.
China were quarter-finalists in each of the last two Asian Cups and are second in group A on two points, but they’re at risk of being overtaken by Lebanon or Tajikistan.
“We know that we depend on ourselves and that is something that every team would like to be in that position before the last game,” China coach Aleksandar Jankovic said.
“No matter we play against a host country – Qatar with their World Cup experience – we still depend on ourselves and I always like to be in this kind of situation.”
Lebanon hit the woodwork twice and China had an effort cleared off the line at Al Thumama Stadium.
Lebanon lost 3-0 to Qatar in their opening game and are bottom of the group with one point, but they still have a chance of progressing.
Lebanon, China and Tajikistan could all still advance as runners-up or one of the best third-placed teams.