HONGKONG hit the World Cup trail with their firepower badly blunted by injuries to hotshots Au Wai-lun and Loh Wai-chi. The territory's 22-strong squad left for Beirut, Lebanon yesterday to contest the first round of Group D matches against Bahrain, Lebanon, India and South Korea over the next nine days. But injuries to key forwards Au and Loh - on top of those to South China pair Leslie Santos (midfield) and Chan Ping-on (sweeper), who have not even made the trip - threaten Hongkong's hopes even before the second and final round of Group D games in Seoul next month. Hongkong go into tomorrow's opening game, against Bahrain, with Au and Loh almost certain to sit it out. Bahrain are expected to be the weakest team in the group and the injured forwards are being rested to give them a better chance of being fit for the much tougher game against Lebanon on Sunday. Ernest Borel striker Au took a knock on the knee during his club's 2-0 victory over Sing Tao in the Regal FA Cup quarter-final match played last Friday, while South China winger Loh sustained a calf injury during his side's 2-1 victory over Happy Valley in a quarter-final tie on Tuesday. Hongkong coach Chan Hung-ping remains optimistic the territory can put up a good show against Bahrain even without the injured pair. ''It's a little bit of a worry for us with these injuries but it's not the end - we're still a strong outfit. Bahrain should be the weakest of our opponents so we're still feeling confident, said Chan. ''And if Au and Loh don't make the Bahrain game, I'm optimistic they'll be fit to face Lebanon.'' Even so, Au's injury is a frustrating one for the coach as he is one of the team's two most capable goalscorers. Au, who has scored four goals for Borel this season, said: ''It's not a serious injury but I need a few days' rest.'' He was a key member of Hongkong's squad in the FIFA five-a-side Indoor World Championship held in the territory in November and is a highly coveted forward, wanted by league-leaders Eastern and Viceroy Cup winners South China. He has, however, said he would like to stay with Borel. Loh's injury is also a big blow - the talented winger showed his mettle by scoring two goals in South China's 3-0 victory over Eastern in the Viceroy Cup final last month. Au would normally have been expected to line up with Eastern and Hongkong skipper Lee Kin-wo in the attack. The duo were both on target in a 2-2 draw with Kuwait in the first of two friendlies last month. But Lee missed the second of those friendlies through an ankle injury, from which he has only just recovered. Without Lee, Hongkong lost that second match 1-0. If Au does not recover in time, Eastern midfielder Tam Siu-wai may be pushed forward to partner Lee in attack. Despite the injury worries, the 22-strong squad left the territory in high spirits with national team manager Benny Tang Kar-hung and Eastern team manager Peter Leung pledging more money to Hongkong's win bonus pool. Tang said he would give an additional $1,000 to each player if they win their first three matches and $5,000 more - with Leung sharing the costs - should Hongkong beat South Korea in their final match in Beirut. Already Hongkong's bonus for winning their group has topped the magic million mark with national team sponsors Carlsberg pledging $200,000 on Tuesday.