East Asian Cup qualifying preview: Hong Kong v Australia

They may be far from full strength, but the Socceroos will still be confident of a result in their opening EAFF East Asian Cup qualifier against hosts Hong Kong


Yapp Hung Fai
Lee Chi Ho, Chan Wai Ho, Cheung Kin Fung
Lo Kwan Yee, Huang Yang, Michael Luk, Lee Hong Yee
Jaimes McKee, Chai Siu Ki, Lam Hok Hei

Franjic, Djulbic, Cornthwaite, Behich

Emerton, Thwaite, Milligan, McKay
Garcia, Thompson, Rogic

The East Asian Cup qualifying tournament in Hong Kong looms as the stage for Tom Rogic to prove he should be central to the Socceroos' future.

Rogic made his debut for Australia during the Socceroos' 2-1 win away to South Korea in November with a 22-minute cameo off the bench, but - with most of Holger Osieck's regular starters not available - the 19-year-old attacking midfielder should get plenty of game time in Hong Kong.

Australia's qualifying campaign for the regional football tournament starts on Monday against the host nation and, having proven himself as one of the top players in the A-League over the opening eight weeks of the season, Rogic deserves to be given creative responsibilities in Osieck's preferred formation of 4-2-3-1.

Rogic has been crucial to the Central Coast Mariners' impressive start to the campaign, with three goals and an assist after stunning the A-League last season when he broke into the Gosford-based club's starting line-up.

The lanky playmaker is widely expected to become a stalwart of Australia's national set-up for the next decade and the Socceroos' opening qualifier, against hosts Hong Kong on Monday, could be his chance to stake a claim.

The Socceroos will have to play four matches in eight days to qualify for the final stage of the East Asian Cup, meaning Osieck is expected to use the entirety of his 20-man squad throughout the qualifying tournament in Hong Kong.

But considering the relative inexperience of his squad, Osieck will undoubtedly play close to his strongest line-up available against Hong Kong to ensure they get off to a positive start.

Adelaide United goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic may be handed the gloves due to his international experience ahead of Mat Ryan of Central Coast, who is yet to make his Socceroos debut.

After his impressive performance against South Korea, Robert Cornthwaite [Chunnam Dragons, South Korea] will probably start in central defence alongside Dino Djulbic [Guizhou Renhe, China], while Ivan Franjic [Brisbane Roar] and Aziz Behich [Melbourne Heart] are likely to play at right and left-back respectively.

Michael Thwaite of Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory's Mark Milligan are expected be given the defensive midfield duties behind a trio of Matt McKay [Busan I'Park, South Korea], Rogic and captain Brett Emerton [Sydney FC]. Archie Thompson [Melbourne Victory] looks the most likely to start up front.

While Hong Kong are ranked 172nd in the world, 139 spots below Australia, this Socceroos squad's lack of experience and time playing together should make Monday's game at Mong Kok Stadium quite even.

The hosts will also be high on confidence after easing past Guam 2-1 in their opener on Saturday, with striker Chan Siu Ki marking himself as a man to watch after scoring both goals in the victory.

The only player based outside of Hong Kong in the hosts' squad, the Guangdong Sunray Cave [China] player is his nation's record leading scorer.

Australia will also face North Korea, Guam and Taiwan after the match against Hong Kong, with only the top-placed team set to qualify for the final stage, which will be held in South Korea in July next year.

Goal Australia has its own and account, so for all the latest news and features on Australian football follow us by clicking on the above links