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.
Hong Kong v Australia Date: Monday December 3 Kick-off: 11.30pm AEDT Venue: Mong Kok Stadium, Hong Kong
Broadcast SBS will stream all four of the Qantas Socceroos- East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) East Asia Cup 2013 qualifying matches from Hong Kong LIVE and exclusive online at www.sbs.com.au/theworldgame
Head-to-head Played: 2, Wins: Hong Kong 0, Australia 2
Past five matches: Hong Kong: Hong Kong 2-1 Guam, East Asian Cup Qualifier, Hong Kong, December 1 2012 Malaysia 1-1 Hong Kong, International friendly, Kuala Lumpur, November 14 2012 Hong Kong 0-3 Malaysia, International friendly, Hong Kong, October 16 2012 Singapore 2-0 Hong Kong, International friendly, Singapore August 15 2012 Hong Kong 1-2 Vietnam, International friendly, Hong Kong June 6 2012
Australia: Korea Republic 1-2 Australia, International friendly, Hwaseong, November 14 2012 Iraq 1-2 Australia, World Cup Qualifier, Doha, October 16 2012 Jordan 2-1 Australia, World Cup Qualifier, Amman, September 12 2012 Lebanon 0-3 Australia, International friendly, Tripoli, September 7 2012 Scotland 3-1 Australia, International friendly, Edinburgh, August 16 2012
Analysis: 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 rounds, 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' clash with Hong Kong 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.
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.