Superstars from around the globe will descend on Guangxi Sports Center for the second year running as the China Cup returns to Nanning. Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Gareth Bale are just three of the names that’ll be representing their respected countries in the tournament which begins on Thursday the 22nd of March, with China entertaining a Wales side led by Ryan Giggs who makes his managerial bow.
An Old Rivalry Reignited
You’ve got the aforementioned China and Wales alongside Uruguay and the Czech Republic who make up the quartet; naturally, we’re going to focus our attention on China versus Wales, Lippi versus Giggs, Asia versus Europe and any other ways you can imagine to pit the two nations against each other. While China and Wales have never met one another on the international stage, that’s not to say that the two managers haven’t crossed paths before.
In the Champions League of 2003, a brace from Ryan Giggs put Manchester United on their way to a 3-0 win in Turin against a Marcello Lippi-ran Juventus, so it could be said that Lippi has a score to settle with the Welshman. Speaking of Lippi, he could do with a result regardless of whether or not he wants revenge on Giggs as his China side haven’t won in five games.
A disappointing EAFF campaign which saw China lose to Japan and draw with both of the Koreas would’ve annoyed Lippi more than anything else because he knows that his side is better than that. Prior to the EAFF Championship, China also fell to Colombia and Serbia, although, it would’ve taken a brave man to back them getting anything against either of those.
Momentum Can Be Gained
So, overall Lippi’s record looks like this: P: 14 | W: 4 | D: 5 | L: 5 | F: 19 | A: 19. Bear in mind that of the nineteen they have scored, eight came in a friendly against the Philippines, so it does slightly skew the numbers, but you’ve got to take what you can in this day and age. To be fair to him, he’s in it for the long-run and if China can upset the odds and win the China Cup then the momentum will be well and truly on his side.
Squad wise, Guangzhou Evergrande are the most represented in the squad for this double-header with eight, followed by Shanghai SIPG who have five. Tan Long and Peng Xinli will both earn their first international caps should Lippi choose to feature them at any point; one thing that does jump off the page when you look at their squad is the age.
Only five out of a squad of twenty-seven are 25 or younger which does really beg the question, what are China and Lippi going to do in the future? Your guess is probably as good as mine, nonetheless, you’d like to think the quality of the youngsters coming through will only be helped by the quality of the foreigners playing in the CSL.
Wales’ squad for the tournament, on the other hand, has more players under-twenty-five than not which bodes well for the future of Giggs’ side. How they will perform under Giggs’ tutelage remains to be seen and I for one firmly believe it will go one way or another, they’ll either play China off the park OR China will grind out a 1-0 win. Dependant on the result, China will go into either the final or the third-place playoff a few days after. Either way, they’ll have an extra day rest due to the Czech Republic and Uruguay not facing one another until Friday.
Goalkeepers: Zeng Cheng (Guangzhou Evergrande), Wang Dalei (Shandong Luneng), Yan Junling (Shanghai SIPG).
Defenders: Feng Xiaoting, Zhang Linpeng, Li Xuepeng, Deng Hanwen (All Guangzhou Evergrande), Jiang Zhipeng (Hebei China Fortune), Zheng Zheng (Shandong Luneng), Wang Shenchao, He Guan (Both Shanghai SIPG), Liu Yiming (Tianjin Quanjian).
Midfielders: Zhao Xuri (Tianjin Quanjin), Hao Junmin (Shandong Luneng), Yu Hanchao, Huang Bowen (Both Guangzhou Evergrande), Wu Xi (Jiangsu Suning), Cai Huikang (Shanghai SIPG), Fan Xiaodong, He Chao (Both Changchun Yatai), Peng Xinli (Chongqing Lifan).
Forwards: Gao Lin (Guangzhou Evergrande), Wu Lei (Shanghai SIPG), Yu Dabao, Wei Shihao (Both Beijing Guoan), Xiao Zhi (Guangzhou R&F), Tan Long (Changchun Yatai).
Wu Lei Can Hurt Wales
In terms of a standout performer, you’ve got to look at Shanghai’s Wu Lei who has started the CSL season like an absolute steam train. He scored a treble on the opening day as his side demolished Dalian Yifang and followed that up with four goals away at Guangzhou R&F. If he can recreate some of that form for China against Wales, then they’ll have half a chance. Here’s hoping.
In the other half of the China Cup, we’ve got Uruguay and Czech Republic facing off and you really can only see that going the way of the South American powerhouses. Any team in the world would struggle to contain Suarez and Cavani, let alone a team that conceded twice against Northern Ireland.
Aside from the two strikers I’ve just mentioned, they also have defensive warriors such as Godin and Caceres and that’s without me even getting started on some of the youngsters that are coming through. For that reason, I make Uruguay the comfortable favourites for the China Cup; China have a chance of finishing as runners-up, it all depends on how well Lippi has them drilled.
Thus ends my debut on the CSL site, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. Was much fun.
Until the next time.