After the heroics from Coleman’s men in 2016, everyone had high hopes that a place at the World Cup in Russia this year was within reach. A reasonable aim too, not just a flight of fancy, as it had been for a long time. It wasn’t to be however, with Wales falling just short of getting their seat on the plane. Their Euro 16 success did raise their international profile though, and they’ve been invited to participate in the second China Cup. The competition guarantees Wales two games, one against the hosts China, and a second against either Uruguay or the Czech Republic.
Wales’ game against China will be the first time the sides have met on the football field, but the two countries do share some commonalities – both playing in red (it’s a lucky colour in China) and dragons being important icons for both nations.
So, it’s not the World Cup, but there are reasons to take a look. To start with, they’ll be the first games in the reign of Giggs. He has big shoes to fill after Coleman’s success and though a legend as a player, he is unproven as a manager, and there are some who feel there were more deserving choices for the role. A winning start is just what he and his team will be looking for; a loss against China would be considered a disappointment and get the doubters nattering louder than before.
Secondly, though China are fairly unknown as a footballing nation, there is the prospect of a game against Uruguay as likely reward for beating the hosts. Bale versus Suarez is a Real Madrid/Barca showdown that would get most fans excited. And after the disappointment of missing out on a World Cup berth, the prospect of a South American test is just the pre-Easter treat fans are in need of.
Game 1 – Wales v China – 11:35 am, Thursday 22 March on BBC One (long lunch anyone?)
Game 2 – Wales v Uruguay OR Czech Republic – 11:35 am (if they beat China) or 7:35 am (if they don’t), Monday 26 March on S4C