'˜Ruthless' Belgium display a learning curve for Hearts' John Souttar

John Souttar admitted he encountered the best team he has ever faced as Belgium beat Scotland 4-0 on his international debut.

Saturday, 8th September 2018, 12:18 am
Updated Saturday, 8th September 2018, 2:55 am
John Souttar, centre, tries to get back as John McGinn, left, faces Eden Hazard
John Souttar, centre, tries to get back as John McGinn, left, faces Eden Hazard

The Hearts defender said he endured his sternest examination so far by Roberto Martinez’s side, who are ranked second in the world.

Goals from Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard before a Michy Batshuayi double consigned the Scots to a comprehensive friendly defeat at Hampden Park – their heaviest at home since losing 5-0 to England in 1973. Souttar was earning his first senior cap and lamented three individual Scotland errors which led to Belgium goals.

John McGinn was dispossessed for the opening goal, the third came after the ball was given away by Charlie Mulgrew and the fourth saw Ryan Jack tackled in midfield before Batshuayi’s finish.

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Souttar, 21, insisted he can learn much from the experience after dealing with some of the planet’s most talented players. Scotland now face Albania in their first Nations League tie on Monday evening, and Souttar admitted they must eradicate mistakes quickly. “It was the biggest test for me by far,” he said. “It was a learning curve for me playing against them. I felt good and I enjoyed it. I felt that we did some good stuff in the game but the result obviously dampens it.

“The difference was three individual errors, costing three goals. They punish you and they’re ruthless. Their finishing is ruthless and their movement is ruthless.

“If I’m going to be where I want to be, I’m going to have to play people like that and learn from it. On a selfish note, it was good to go up against players like that.

“We’ve got to learn quick. The manager [Alex McLeish] has come in and put his own philosophy in. You can see the change of formation so we have to learn quickly. Monday will be a completely different game. All focus sn on that now because that’s the important one.”

The evening brought mixed emotions for Souttar having waited so long to win his first full Scotland cap. He was promoted from the Under-21s after months of consistent displays in the Hearts defence.

“Belgium are second in the world for a reason. They are a top team and you saw in the World Cup how good they are,” he said. “They knocked Brazil about the park and it was always going to be tough. To test yourself against that at this stage of my career is brilliant.

“It’s something I’ve strived for for a long time. The result wasn’t great in the end but it’s a young team and we’ve changed our system. You can see how we’re trying to play.

“Andy [Robertson] said in his post-match interview that it was three mistakes and three goals. Players like that are going to punish you all day long. On a personal note, I’m delighted to be here.

“It was always going to be a hard test against Belgium but it’s one you’ve got to enjoy. Test yourself against the best. Obviously the result was poor and a lot of stuff wasn’t great but there were a few things which looked positive. Monday night is the big one and hopefully we take the positive stuff into that game.”