Socceroos wary of Hong Kong threat
They may be ranked well over 100 places below Australia but Socceroos coach Holger Osieck is wary of the threat hosts Hong Kong pose at the East Asian Cup qualifiers.
The 33rd-ranked Socceroos kick off their campaign against the world No.172 side on Monday (2330 AEDT) at Hong Kong's Mong Kok Stadium.
The contest should be closer than rankings suggest considering the inexperience of most the 20-man Australia squad which includes eight rookies.
Osieck stressed the importance of beginning the tournament on the right note and, with a place at the 2013 East Asian Cup at stake, he isn't underestimating Hong Kong.
"It's always very important to have a good start in the tournament," he said.
"We are here to compete and we always want to win.
"But you must not discount the local team.
"The ranking doesn't matter at all what matters is the performance of the team.
"You have to play competitively against every team and you have to treat every team with the most respect."
The Socceroos will also face North Korea, Guam and Taiwan with the winner of the five-team competition to join Japan, South Korean and China in next year's showpiece.
Skipper Brett Emerton, the most experienced in the squad with 92 caps, will be tasked with guiding his many young teammates and, with four games in seven days, most are likely to a run.
The 33-year-old Sydney FC midfielder also feels the hosts will be dangerous.
"I think North Korea will be quite tough and also the likes of Hong Kong won't be an easy task," he said.
"We're playing Hong Kong first so they'll be fired up and they'll be playing in front of a home crowd.
"But hopefully we can get the desired results in those first two matches and finish the job in the next two and qualify."
The tournament got underway on Sunday with Hong Kong beating Guam 2-1 while North Korea trounced Taiwan 6-1.