Welsh rarin' for China challenge

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, March 22, 2018
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Wales will look to Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale to ignite its offensive spark against China in Thursday's opening match of the four-team China Cup tournament in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Wales has thrown down the gauntlet ahead of Thursday's China Cup opener against the host squad in Nanning.

The Dragons' Tottenham leftback Ben Davies spiced up proceedings by singling out China's star striker Wu Lei in a video message on Twitter, saying: "Wales vs China, what a massive game. Wu Lei, see you in Nanning," before signing off in Chinese with: "Are you ready?".

Shanghai SIPG striker Wu responded on Weibo with an old Chinese saying: "Make friends through fight", and expressed his confidence about the game.

China's Italian coach Marcello Lippi admitted it will be a tough match.

"Wales is a very strong team. Their players' physical condition, and attacking and defensive capabilities are all very competitive. They are ready to play against anyone. We have to up our game in every aspect."

Spearheaded by Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale, Euro 2016 semifinalist Wales heads into the clash as the clear favorite in manager Ryan Giggs' first match at the helm.

Wales, however, is obviously wary of Wu's firepower after the SIPG sniper fired four goals against Guanghzhou R&F last Sunday to take his Chinese Super League tally to seven goals in three matches.

Lippi described the four-team tournament, which also features Uruguay and the Czech Republic, as a "huge and important opportunity" for his team as it builds toward next year's AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

"This time we will face teams from Europe and South America, and that will be very difficult," said Lippi.

"It's hard but it's not only about the result. Only when facing stronger teams can we improve.

"Our plan is to focus on playing against more Asian teams after the China Cup in order to warm up for the Asian Cup next year."

On Tuesday Lippi was hit by the withdrawal of Zhang Linpeng due to shoulder and arm injuries. The Guangzhou Evergrande defender had been called up instead of 38-year-old captain Zheng Zhi, who Lippi assured fans would continue to don the red jersey and likened him to veteran Italy and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

"The absence of Zheng Zhi is because of his injuries and he has not played for months," said Lippi.

"If he can continue his performances like the old days or even have better performances than the younger players, he will come back to the national team in the future, just like 40-year-old Buffon."

Win or lose against the Welsh, either the final or a third-place playoff against Uruguay or the Czechs awaits China on Monday.

With the World Cup finals in Russia just around the corner for Uruguay, coach Oscar Tabarez has taken a strong squad to Nanning, which includes Barcelona star Luis Suarez.

The Czech Republic, meanwhile, might be bereft of big names these days but it remains a country steeped in soccer history.

As Czechoslovakia, it was a two-time World Cup runnerup and 1976 European champion. Since independence, it was runner-up at Euro 96 and continues to produce sound technical players.

Guangzhou Evergrande defender Feng Xiaoting is relishing China's challenge.

"Everyone on our team is ready," he said. "We will face strong international opponents, and we are adjusting to that. We are looking forward to the game.

"Every game in the national team is important. For me, of course I'm under huge pressure. However, only when we participate in this kind of game can we improve."

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