China and the China Cup

Today will see China take on Wales in the invitation-only China Cup which is taking place in Nanning, China over this international break. The mini-competition is now in its second year as Chile won the tournament back in 2017 beating Iceland in the final 1-0. This year the competition is back for its second season in Nanning this time with the Czech Republic, Uruguay and Wales taking part along with hosts China. 

With all teams guaranteed two games, each country will be hoping the process is a helpful one in helping to build for the future. As China looks to get a team together for the Asian Cup in 2019. As the host nation will use the competition as a gage to show how close the team is to be ready to compete against top opposition. With China having not won since they beat Qatar in September 2017 they will be hoping for improvements in the coming days. 

In China, the interest is high in football with the average crowd last week in the Chinese Super League at around 23,000 so expect a large crowd when China take on Wales. With the rise of the Chinese Super League, the Chinese are hoping this will help the national side with the aim being by 2050 that China will challenge for the World Cup. 

Right now, however, the goal is just to get to Qatar in 2022 and build on that success. They do still have talent in China and there will be players to look out for during the China Cup. One player who is on fire right now in China is Wu Lei of Shanghai SIPG. The right winger has seven goals this season already in all competitions helping his team to the top of the table with three wins out of three while they also sit top of their Champions League group. 

With China now having a close to a full squad to pick from I expect them to be eager to get a win on the board. Although the last time they faced opponents from outside Asia they lost 2-0 to Serbia followed by a 4-0 defeat to Colombia four days later. It should be pointed out this was right at the end of the Chinese Super League season. The China Cup, however, comes with the players just starting to hit full swing so I would expect a much bigger performance from the hosts than they showed in those matches. 

The China Cup this year might have come too early and I think China will find it hard to get a win over a Wales team that although it is depleted is still strong. However with the way in which Chinese football is improving China could be a surprise side to look out for in the World Cup in four years time. A lot of this is down to the amount of money being put into the game in China and with a huge priority being put on promoting young Chinese talent.

It is still very early days to judge how well this is working but with the start, some of the talent in China had in the Chinese Super League this season it looks like their countries talent is improving as they don't look out of place on the same pitch as Brazilian and Belgian internationals for example. 

The teams tomorrow will be hard to call with it being a friendly both managers will look to give as many players a chance. Despite it being a friendly I expect a very entertaining match and I could see a few goals being scored. As China will look to prove they can compete against the European Cup semi-finalists Wales and in Ryan Giggs's first game in charge of Wales the players for the guests am sure will look to impress the new man in charge. 

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