Fringe Socceroos can 'fill the void' left by Cahill, Milligan, Kruse, Leckie
As the Socceroos assemble in San Pedro Sula it increasingly seems an experience gulf will pose a greater challenge in their World Cup playoff with Honduras than the so-called hostile local environment.
Coach Ange Postecoglou led the first group of players into the central American republic on Sunday ahead of Saturday's away match in the two-legged affair.
A-League players and Asian-based pair Trent Sainsbury and Milos Degenek were among the first to land, with most European stars arriving on Monday.
Mitch Langerak's journey may be the most startling.
The gloveman flew from Valencia to Frankfurt to Paris before a trans-Atlantic flight to Mexico City and finally on to Honduras.
He was one of six players including Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Alex Gersbach, Matthew Jurman and Nikita Rukavytsya to miss the first training session at San Pedro Sula.
The 16 on the ground completed light drills and praised the welcome from locals.
There has been no repeat of the ugliness that marred Australia's 2001 World Cup playoff with Uruguay, when Paul Okon's team were spat on and violently confronted upon arrival.
Despite the local publication of the Socceroos' itinerary, accommodation and training schedule, Sainsbury says they've been treated respectfully.
"People keep hyping up that this is a really dangerous place to come and it's going to be really hostile. I don't see it that way ... everyone's really friendly," he said.
"It's a nice place with nice weather. I've been happy with the way it's gone so far and I think we're looking good."
When the entire squad assembles, they'll find a much-changed Socceroos from their last clutch qualifier four years ago.
If Tim Cahill -- said to be an "outside chance" of playing after rolling his ankle in the A-League on Friday night -- is correct, no one who started the final game of the 2014 qualification effort will take the field.
That was at ANZ Stadium against Iraq, when substitute Josh Kennedy's late header ensured Australia's place in Brazil.
The player turnover owes much to Postecoglou's transformation of the side and the absence of Mark Milligan, Mat Leckie (suspension) and Robbie Kruse (injury).
But it also underlines a lack of qualification experience.
Sainsbury said the new-look side would overcome those concerns.
"Ange has done a great job of bringing in players at younger ages and developing them," he said.
"We've got a really strong leadership base.
"The older boys -- Milligan, Kruser, Lecks -- are very experienced ... Not being here, it's a loss for us.
"But at the same time we've got a lot of boys that have been around for a long time now ... they can step up and fill the void."