Hong Kong's national team travel to Tokyo this week to begin arguably their toughest series of matches ever. While they have played Japan, South Korea and China many times before in the old Dynasty Cup, the inaugural East Asian Football Federation Championship which runs from December 4 to 10, comes at a time when the three nations are at a high point. Hong Kong can't claim to be anywhere near that status, but at least in the shape of 24-year-old Wong Chun-yue they have found the answer to one of their most pressing problems - a desperate shortage of Cantonese strikers. With only six teams to choose from in the Hong Kong League, excluding the three Guangdong team and the Fire Services side, and all but one of those, South China, using at least one foreign striker, it seemed Hong Kong's only option to lead the line was the talented 32-year-old Au Wai-lun. His enthusiasm for the national team has been clearly on the wane, however, as shown by withdrawals from the squad for the EAFF Championship and the Asian Cup qualifying matches. However in Au's absence - he pulled out of the matches in Tashkent because he had yet to play a full match after breaking a bone in his ankle against Real Madrid - Wong seized his opportunity to cement his place as the national team's number one attacker. 'Of course, he is not big and strong, but he has very good skills, control, dribbling and very good crossing,' said Hong Kong coach Lai Sun-cheung. 'He needs to learn more about how to attack and how to use the ball, he needs training on how to play in the penalty area, how to lay against tight marking, how to make good decisions in the box, but in these matches he's been very good. 'He has passed Au Wai-lun. He was the first name I wrote down for the squad for Japan. Au's psychology now, he thinks he's old. 'He thinks sometimes he can't help the team, that he can't do a hard job.' Wong's emergence is something of a surprise, which is bizarre in itself considering he has been under the auspices of Lai and the rest of the HKFA's coaches for over 10 years as a youth team player and as a member of the old Hong Kong Sports Institute development programme. However, it was only a chance conversion from his winger's role, to a forward for his club Sun Hei last season that has taken him to a leading role for the national team. During the Asian Cup games against Thailand, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, he gave Hong Kong an option up front that they didn't think they had, emerging as a player who can secure possession and hold it long enough to allow his midfielders to join the attack, despite not having the physique suited to the task. 'I am not that big and strong,' Wong admitted. 'When I play striker I always go to the sides. I try to work the channels rather than going inside. I can't play like the English strikers who always stay in the middle. 'I am just trying to help the midfield, just trying to help build an attack. I try to get into a position to cross or try to play the wall pass. I just have to resist the pressure and try to give the ball to a midfielder.' Despite conceding that his switch to centre-forward had come with very little special training or guidance from his club, Wong has adapted his skills as a wide player to compensate for the fact that he doesn't fit the bill for his role. 'I need to improve my power, my physique. When I collide with an opponent I don't think I'm strong enough, I lose too many 50-50 challenges because I'm too thin,' he said. 'There's no secret method to improve the build of the Cantonese. I just need to do my best to improve. I've been going to the gym in Olympic City in Mongkok for a long time, working on my chest, shoulders arms and legs. 'I also need to be better getting on the end of crosses. When I was young I learned how to get the ball to the strikers. I didn't learn how the striker should deal with that ball.' Wong, who has lived all his life in Fanling and who attended Lok Sin Tong Secondary School in Tsing Yi, also works on his mentality, particularly his confidence, which he believes is one of the biggest weaknesses in Hong Kong's footballers. 'What's the difference between Cantonese and foreign players? Why can they score easily while we are frightened to take the chance?' he asks. 'The foreigners have a stronger heart than the Chinese. If the Chinese players miss their first chance, they're scared they'll miss their second chance. Foreigners if they miss will still think they'll score the next one or the next one. I'm 50-50. Sometimes I'm better, sometime I'm not. Hong Kong players aren't strong enough mentally. If a player plays well at the start of the match they'll play well the whole match. 'If their first touch is bad, they'll have a bad game. Good players should be more stable. If I play badly I remind myself not to think about the negative things, and just concentrate on how to play better.' Wong says the match he is looking forward to most in Tokyo does not even involve Hong Kong, but is the clash between Japan and South Korea for the right to call themselves Asia's number one. Meanwhile, he is guaranteed to be Hong Kong's number one striker for the tournament, on his return to a country he trained in when he was 17 - he spent one month with Cerezo Osaka - although his coach believes he is still very much a work in progress in the role. 'He needs a lot of encouragement, but he can be a very good striker,' said Lai. 'He's been a right winger and just like an English player he can always cross the ball even in difficult situations. But he must play that position for Sun Hei so he can learn the tactics and skills and improve. Will Sun Hei use him? I don't think so.'