The Socceroos are resigned to losing key defender Harry Souttar for the rest of their World Cup qualifying campaign now that the big defender has been confirmed to have suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The towering centre-back has been forced to return to England, where he plays for Championship side Stoke City, to undergo rehabilitation, Football Australia said in a statement on Sunday.
Stoke say the 23-year-old, who had to be carried off on a stretcher during the Socceroos’ 0-0 qualifying draw with Saudi Arabia on Thursday, will miss the remainder of the season.
That would rule him out of Australia’s remaining five Asian qualifiers as they seek to make next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
“We are devastated for Harry,” said Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold. “Harry is a determined and positive young man who will leave no stone unturned to return to the pitch as soon as possible.
“We will support Harry every step of the way and believe that he has an enormous future ahead of him playing at the highest levels of world football.”
The FA added in its statement that “since the unfortunate injury occurred last Thursday evening Socceroos medical staff have been in constant communication with Stoke City.
“Socceroos staff will remain in contact with Stoke and Souttar throughout his rehabilitation and will offer every possible support and assistance to enable the young defender to return to the pitch as soon as possible.”
Souttar’s excellent form this season has seen him become the target of interest from Premier League clubs and Stoke’s manager Michael O’Neill has been left crestfallen for him.
“Harry has been outstanding for us but he knows that his season has almost certainly come to a premature end,” O’Neill said.
“I’ve spoken to him and although he’s bitterly disappointed, he knows that injuries are unfortunately part and parcel of the game.
“It’s a huge blow for such a young man but he will get all the support he needs from everyone at the club.”