|By PAUL GOUGH
The Socceroos are expected to have few problems in their opening East Asian Cup qualifier against host nation Hong Kong on Monday.
Holger Osieck's mostly A-League-based squad are the $1.22 favourites at Betfair to win the first of what will be four matches in six days.
It is the first time Australia have taken part in the East Asian Cup, a tournament that only began in 2003 in which Japan, South Korea and China qualify automatically.
The fourth spot for the tournament proper, which will be held in July next year in South Korea, will be decided this week in a five-nation qualifying tournament featuring the Socceroos, hosts Hong Kong, North Korea, Guam and Chinese Taipei.
The Socceroos are easily ranked the highest in Fifa's official rankings of the five at No.33 and third in the Asian confederation behind Japan at 24 and South Korea at 32.
The only serious opposition for the Socceroos over the next week is likely to come from 81st-ranked North Korea - participants in the 2010 World Cup - in their next match on Wednesday.
|Australia to lead v Hong Kong at half-time and full-time at $1.63 at Betfair
||Australia to win 3-0 v Hong Kong in correct-score betting at $8 at Betfair|
However, Hong Kong [ranked No.172 by Fifa], Chinese Taipei , and Guam  are amongst the true minnows of world football and should pose few problems a Socceroos outfit evenn missing their European-based stars.
A total of 15 of the 20 players selected by Osieck have less than 10 caps to their name, but the tournament represents a chance for some players tipped as future stars to gain valuable international experience.
They include Central Coast Mariners' whiz kid Tommy Rogic, team-mate and goalkeeper Mat Ryan, Newcastle Jets forward Adam Taggart and Melbourne Heart defenders Michael Marrone and Aziz Behich.
However, Osieck still has a handful of experienced Socceroos at his disposal for the qualifying tournament in Archie Thompson, Richard Garcia, Brett Emerton, Mark Milligan and Matt McKay.
Hong Kong won their opening match on Saturday by beating Guam 2-1 but are not expected to get close to Australia.
At sportsbet.com.au Australia are priced at $6.50 to win both 1-0 and 2-0 but a 3-0 win looks better value at $8, while the Socceroos are also better value at $1.63 with Betfair to lead at both half-time and full-time.
In the other game on Monday, North Korea - fresh from their thumping of Chinese Taipei 6-1 in their opening match on Saturday - are at even shorter odds than the Socceroos at $1.03 with Betfair to beat Guam at $65, with even the drawn priced at the huge odds of $27.
*Note prices subject to change