If it wasn’t already official enough, Scottish-born Harry Souttar’s commitment to the Socceroos has been certified in ink.
Towering defender Souttar is back in the Socceroos fold after more than a year out with an ACL injury and believes he is ready to start against reigning world champions France on Wednesday (AEDT), despite having relatively few recent minutes under his best.
The 24-year-old Stoke defender is sporting three new tattoos in camp, including one on his arm to honour his older brother Aaron who tragically passed away aged 42 earlier this year following a battle with Motor Neurone Disease.
“I know a few of the lads have got it but just got my cap number and the coat of arms on my calf and just a kind of random one on the sleeve,” Souttar said. “But my brother passed away three and a half months ago so I’ve got him on my arm just to remind me every day what a brilliant person he was.”
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Souttar was born in raised in Scotland but his mother was born in Autralia and he switched allegiances two years ago. His return looms as a huge boost for the Socceroos on both ends of the pitch. The 198cm has proven himself as a genuine attacking threat, from set pieces, with six goals in his 10 national team appearances.
“Make no bones about it … it’s gonna be a really tough challenge,” Souttar said.
“We know they’re a really good team. We know, likewise, we’ve got so much faith in ourselves, so much belief that we can go out there and we could do something.
“So in terms of myself to be ready, fitness wise, I feel great, feel fine. Mentally, I feel really strong as well.”
INJURED SOCCEROOS BACK ON THE PITCH BUT RUNNING OUT OF TIME
The Socceroos continue to sweat on the availability of two of their most important players, Martin Boyle and Ajdin Hrustic, ahead of the showdown with France.
Midfielders Boyle (knee) and Hrustic (ankle) performed light duties on a seperate pitch from the main squad at Socceroos training in Doha on Saturday evening.
While it’s a step in the right direction, time is running out if the pair are to feature against the reigning champions — though it’s possible they are doing some work with Arnold’s squad once training is closed off from the media.
Striker Jamie Maclaren is optimistic of having the duo available.
“I saw Boyley running yesterday just through the window of my room and Ajden as well,” Maclaren said. ”From my eyes they looked good but I think the medical staff will make a call whenever they can.
“But they are two huge players for us and exciting players and players that have played a big part in the last four years. And from where I stand now, I think they’ll be okay.”
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FRANCE STAR HAS DONE HIS RESEARCH
France continue to stress they won’t be taking the Socceroos lightly and they appear to be learning more about Graham Arnold’s men.
Midfielder Youssouf Fofana and defender Axel Disasi are latest to warn of the danger posed by a nation they narrowly beat 2-1 in Russia four years ago.
“We know Australia has big physical qualities and they’re a really solid team and they stick together,” Disasi said.
“We have to perorm well in the match really because it’s the first one in the tournament … and there are no small teams or big teams. It’s up to us to play well.”
It comes after stars Olivier Giroud and defender Lucas Hernandez made similar warnings, although the former admitted he didn’t know much about the current Socceroos squad.
Fofana, though, appeared to have done his research.
“The team is a tight team, they come very fast back into the transition and they’re very good at duels,” Fofana said.
“I think they are 38 or 39 in FIFA rankings — not a team to ignore at all. They are an important team … it will be a real challenge to beat them.”
Socceroos defender Aziz Behich insists Australia’s players aren’t fussed about what France do and don’t know.
“It’s up to them how they prepare,” the veteran left back said. “We’ve just got to worry about ourselves.
“I think we’ve played them before at the world stage and whether they wanna believe it or not, we gave ‘em a tough game. So it’s gonna be no different, this one, but we block out the noise once we’re in this camp within these four walls, we believe as a team in what we can do.”
Behich revealed the Socceroos’ focus on attention to detail and desire to “punish” France.
“Sometimes finer details make the difference and we’ve gotta make sure that this World Cup we get those finer details … whether it’s a cross, a finish, a block, just these small details at this level you can get punished for and we want to do the punishing this World Cup.”