Australia have been one of the biggest surprise stories of the 2022 World Cup so far.
Despite falling to a heavy defeat in the first match over champions France, they rebounded strongly and were able to defeat Tunisia and Denmark courageously in back-to-back matches to secure qualification to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2006.
It is a remarkable achievement for a side that struggled to even make the tournament at all, having to go through an intercontinental playoff against Peru that required a dramatic penalty shootout win.
The foundation for their remarkable run has been their defence, where apart from struggling first up against a world-class France attack, has shone to keep clean sheets in 1-0 wins over Tunisia and Denmark. Key to that defence is Harry Souttar, standing at 198 centimetres, his aerial ability, passing, tackling and positioning has helped a previously porous Socceroos defence become rock solid.
The Scottish-born defender will face another tough test when he is tasked with keeping out a top Argentina attack led by arguably the best player in the world Lionel Messi, but how did a defender born in Aberdeen, Scotland come to star for a country on the other side of the globe in a World Cup?
The Sporting News charts his unlikely journey.
How did Harry Souttar become Australian?
Whenever Harry Souttar sets foot in Australia, his height is not the only thing that stands out, his accent is also not one that you associate with the sunny beaches of Australia. That’s because he was actually born over 9,000 miles away in Scotland.
Born in 1998, he grew up in a tiny town called Luthermuir with a Scottish father and a mother who was born in Port Hedland, South Australia, meaning he and his brother John — who is also a professional footballer — are eligible to play for both Scotland and Australia at international level.
Whilst older brother John was eventually capped by Scotland, Harry never received such a call up, only recording appearances for Scotland’s Under-17’s side in 2015. As a result, Australia began to circle in 2019 to try and convince Souttar to switch alliegances.
And after initially playing for their Under-23 side, he was eventually called up for the Socceroos by Graham Arnold in October 2019 for their World Cup qualifiers, meaning he would swap ‘The Flower of Scotland’ for ‘Advance Australia Fair’.
Harry Souttar’s Australia career so far
Souttar made his debut for his new country against Nepal in Canberra, where he scored two goals from corners in a 5-0 rout that showcased his aerial prowess.
He soon became a fixture in an Australia’s backline that embarked on a run of 10 straight wins in qualifying, a world record.
However, in November 2021, in the second half of a qualifying match against Saudi Arabia, he suffered a severe ACL injury that ultimately ruled him out for the rest of qualifying and for his club until nearly one year later.
Remarkably, his second game back from the injury was Australia’s opening match of the 2022 World Cup against France, but he has not missed a beat on his return with his phenomenal performances at the tournament so far. He currently has 12 caps and an amazing six goals, not bad for a defender!
Shoutout Harry Souttar, the tallest outfield player at the World Cup:
▪️ Became a national hero when his last-ditch tackle prevented a Tunisia equalizer
▪️The Denmark win was only his fourth match back since missing a year with a torn ACL
Now he’s off to the last 16 💪 pic.twitter.com/CPdvq5Bm4O
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 30, 2022
What club does Harry Souttar play for?
Harry Souttar currently plies his trade for Stoke City, who are in the second tier of English football.
He came through the ranks at Scottish side Dundee United, playing two senior games there before transferring to Stoke in 2017. He was initially loaned out for three seasons, first to Scottish side Ross County before spending two seasons on loan at English side Fleetwood Town who were in the third division at the time.
He finally got his opportunity at Stoke in 2020 when he played 38 games in a breakout year, and was starting many games in the 2021-22 season before his serious injury curtailed his season early.
Now having recovered from his injury and having been a top performer at the World Cup so far, there is every chance that top teams in England will be circling given that he is just 24.
Lionel Messi performances at the 2022 World Cup so far
Souttar and Australia may have earned plaudits for their defensive performances in the group, but they will have to step up a level if they are to beat an Argentina side gaining confidence after their shock defeat to Saudi Arabia, and Messi is once again starring for La Albiceleste.
He scored their only goal against Saudi Arabia from the penalty spot and still looked threatening even as the side fell to defeat.
He then scored a wonderful goal in their next match against Mexico, smashing one in from the edge of the box to help his country to a crucial 2-0 win.
And whilst he didn’t get on the scoresheet in their win by the same scoreline over Poland, he was still pulling the strings all over the park and being the key man in Argentina’s attack, although he also missed a penalty.
Despite Australia’s defence being its key asset, Messi will fancy himself to add to his tally of two goals, and to score his first ever goal in the knockout rounds of the World Cup.
First though, he’ll likely have to find a way past a Socceroos giant with Scottish roots called Harry Souttar.