No seats or beer for the fans proves China are miles off hosting a World Cup, but Bale makes up for it in Nanning
There are plenty of takeaways from a night that saw the hosts suffer a humiliating defeat by Wales
It was a chastening night for Marcello Lippi’s China team as they fell 6-0 to Wales in Nanning. Here’s what we learned.
1. China’s sixth richest man can’t turn everything to gold
Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin was greeted with cheerleaders as he left one of his five star hotels to head to the football tournament he set up but by the final whistle of Wales vs China he must have wondered why he bothered – and not for the first time this season. After selling his stake in Atletico Madrid earlier this year and taking over at Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang – who were humbled 8-0 by Shanghai SIPG on opening day and have lost twice more since – Wang may have hoped for more from the national team. Instead, they were humbled by Wales. To make matters worse for Wang, it was a Real Madrid man who wrought havoc.
2. Bale well worth the money as China Cup lives up to its billing
The China Cup was initiated to make sure that Chinese football fans got to see the best players in the world up close and the opening game of this 2018 tournament delivered on that. Both sets of fans were there to see Gareth Bale, the only true superstar on the pitch, and with more than 35,000 pairs of eyes on him the Welshman delivered. He was at the heart of everything the Welsh team did and well worth the reported £1 million (HK$11 million).
— Jonathan White (@jmawhite) March 22, 2018
3. Chinese fans rewarded – just not fans of Chinese football
Whether new Wales boss Ryan Giggs started his star man because of the financial implications of his appearance or because he wanted to win his first game in charge, the local fans got to see the best part of 70 minutes of one of the world game’s true stars playing at something approaching his peak. Bale scored three, set one up and almost played in Sam Vokes for the striker to score a hat-trick. Considering most games involving foreign teams in China are meaningless preseason tours, this was a rare occurrence of a star name performing.
4. Away fans rewarded too
The Welsh fans who made the trip of 9,600km from the UK – and nearly double that for the one fan who came from New Jersey – got to see the first game of the Ryan Giggs era and a rare 6-0 win for Wales. They also experienced the first Welsh international hat-trick since Robert Earnshaw over a decade ago and witnessed Gareth Bale become the country’s top-scorer, surpassing Ian Rush on 28 with his 29th goal for Wales.
5. The fan experience will need to be improved if China are to host a World Cup
As ever, the experience of being a fan at a Chinese football stadium left something to be desired – and more so because this is an international football tournament. As derided as fan zones might be, they do offer something for families and it is a similar story with refreshments. This was a sad state of affairs. Bottles of Sprite and Fanta pre-poured into plastic cups and no beer.
6. Wales fans could have done with a beer
The several hundred Wales fans who made the trip were a little subdued, nay jet-lagged, for much of the game and the atmosphere would surely have been improved with the possibility of a pint to get them going based on them perking up in the bars of Nanning after the match.
— Jonathan White (@jmawhite) March 23, 2018
7. China missed out on the full Red Wall experience
Travelling to China from the UK is not the cheapest and the distance means that it also takes some time, which is what makes the 400 or so in the Welsh end even more impressive. But it also explains why the average age of the travelling Welsh fans was much higher than most games and they were fewer in number. Those who made the trip were great representatives of one of the most respected away followings in world football but it was a shame that no more than a few hundred could make it to pack it out and deliver a more vocal support. That and the extra money that could have been put in the pockets of the city’s barkeeps.
8. Ticketing, as ever, is a farce
People were still pouring into the ground after 30 minutes and the queues outside were akin to those outside Selfridges on the Boxing Day sales. There are plenty of reasons to explain that – not least of which that Nanning is not used to holding international sporting events – but none of them make it clear why people would then spend 10 minutes arguing with the police inside the stadium to complain that people were in their allocated seats. Ticketing in China doesn’t usually work like that and for local fans to spend their time arguing while Harry Wilson was scoring the superb fourth and having missed three goals already was bleak. That’s not to mention the touting outside the stadium.
9. China fans were gracious in defeat
Many, OK, most of them were there to see Bale but the home support was loud for the full 90 minutes even if all they had to feed on from the Chinese players was one real shot. They did their own version of a Viking clap, something they may have stolen from Iceland fans after beating them to third place in last year’s China Cup, and waved their phone lights in an effort to get the atmosphere going. Considering that Nanning has no CSL team – most of the Chinese league shirts in the crowd were Guangzhou Evergrande – this was a great effort. The only thing for the future is to leave the vuvuzelas at home: they sounded like someone had blown them continuously for the last eight years and were whimpering at best.
10. Stats don’t hide the truth of China’s embarrassment
Full credit to China for playing a side that only two years ago were a game away from the European Championships final but this abject humiliation was not what the country was expecting. Whether the blame lies with coach Marcello Lippi or the players he picked, it was humiliating. The game stats may have offered a different story – China had 46 per cent of possession and completed 85 per cent of their passes – but the only number that really matters was the scoreline. What happens next?