SOCCEROOS coach Holger Osieck may be using next week's East Asian Cup qualifying tournament to test the up-and-coming generation of young talent but he insists nothing less than winning all four matches is acceptable.
Australia has been grouped with North Korea, Guam, Chinese Taipei and hosts Hong Kong, and while the Socceroos should easily account for the latter three, only the group winner progresses to the tournament proper, held in South Korea in July.
That means the match against North Korea on December 5 is likely to determine whether Australia qualifies, a result that would net Football Federation Australia between $3 million and $5 million - a considerable cash injection for the game's governing body.
With Australia attempting to qualify for the tournament for the first time, Osieck wants nothing less than a perfect record.
''Basically, I want to win every game. Whenever I send a team onto the pitch, the target will be to win, that's for sure,'' he said in Sydney on Thursday. ''That's the No. 1 target and I will make that perfectly clear to the boys that even though we're looking to see their development, we're also looking for success.''
The Socceroos fly out on Friday and will play four matches in eight days, beginning with Hong Kong on Monday night. The busy schedule makes the task of qualifying harder than it looks, especially considering the heat and humidity of playing in Asia. The national coach is less than pleased with the qualifying structure.
''I think it's very unusual to have four games every second day and for an international tournament, that's not very appropriate,'' Osieck said. ''Obviously some people have to learn what it means to organise an international tournament.''
While Osieck has held several training camps with young players, next week is the first time he will get to test many in a match situation.
''A camp doesn't necessarily reflect on the true quality of a player because it's less pressure. It's a training situation,'' he said. ''But now it comes to serious competition against international opponents and now they have to show [their talent] because it's a different kind of pressure and it's different standard of play. It's a good situation for me to draw my conclusions from after the tournament.''
While Socceroos' stalwart Brett Emerton has been underperforming at club level for Sydney FC lately, Osieck hopes that by calling him into the national team he would be ''revitalised'' by the change of scenery. Osieck said the 33-year-old would relish taking a leadership role among the squad's many younger players.
''It is not a bad idea [picking Emerton] because 'Emmo' is one of those guys who has to guide the youngsters and lead by example because he has all the credibility based on his pedigree and achievements for his country,'' he said. ''I expect a lot from him not only individually but in his position as one of the senior players.''
In the absence of usual skipper Lucas Neill, Emerton will captain the squad as he closes in on being the second Australian player behind Mark Schwarzer to reach 100 international games. He has 92 caps.
Four players from the expanded squad were cut from the final list, with Luke Wilkshire missing due to a hamstring strain and Rostyn Griffiths suffering an injury that kept him out of the week's sessions.
Adelaide United's Osama Malik and Brisbane Roar's Ben Halloran were also omitted from the final 20-man squad.
''I had a very close look at all the guys, in particular the ones who participated for the first time in this environment, and to their credit they really worked hard and tried to impress,'' Osieck said. ''But at some stage you have to make a cut and, for a couple of reasons that I don't want to explain in detail, I decided not to include them in the squad.''
Only six players in the squad have more than five caps, with eight - Terry Antonis, Ivan Franjic, Michael Marrone, Aaron Mooy, Mat Ryan, Matt Smith and Adam Taggart - in line to make their international debut as Osieck confirmed he would use all players to cope with the scheduling demands.