China Cup: Czech Republic vs Uruguay – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Oscar Tabarez’s team begin their World Cup preparations against a Czech Republic side still reeling from missing out on a place in Russia.
11:35 GMT, Friday 23rd March, Guangxi Sports Center (Nanning, China)
To say these two teams will fight tooth and nail for the trophy in the second edition of the China Cup might be a slight exaggeration, but for both Uruguay and Czech Republic there are valuable lessons to be learned in the last international break of the season.
More importantly for Uruguay side, it’s the last period they’ll have as a team together before the World Cup in Russia.
Uruguay come into the match having reached the semifinals and round of 16 in the previous two instalments of the World Cup. Coupled with their Copa America win in 2011, this generation can be said to have already overachieved in the success they’ve obtained, despite still having the firepower of both Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani in attack.
Fiercely competitive as a nation, the South American team will be out to win this competition and pick up early momentum looking ahead to the World Cup, especially as their group, containing hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, looks eminently winnable.
Their opponents the Czech Republic are still kicking themselves at missing out on the playoff spots in the World Cup qualifying group to relative minnows Northern Ireland, and will want to prove a point that they aren’t as bad as their qualifying group standings suggests.
A near full strength squad chosen further hints at the desire the team have to win the tournament.
Last time out
Austria 2-1 Uruguay (International friendly)
Edinson Cavani’s 40th international goal was not enough to stop a defeat against an impressive Austria side in fine form in their final game of 2017 back in November.
Louis Schaub’s winner in the 87th minute gave Austria their third consecutive win since failing to qualify for the World Cup.
Austria went ahead in the fifth minute thanks to Marcel Sabitzer, yet Cavani responded immediately for the Russia-bound Uruguay. A game of few chances was then settled by Schaub scoring a world-class free kick to end Uruguay’s five-match unbeaten run.
Qatar 0-1 Czech Republic (International Friendly)
The European side closed out 2017 with a relatively comfortable victory against the hosts of the 2022 World Cup thanks to a 15th-minute opener from Antonin Barak.
Czech Republic lineup
Key Battle: Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) vs Tomas Kalas (Czech Republic)
One may play up front for one of the biggest and richest European teams in PSG, and the other may be on loan at English Championship team Fulham, yet both Edinson Cavani and Tomas Kalas are having equally superb seasons domestically for their respective clubs.
Cavani has scored 24 league goals as his PSG team have almost secured the Ligue 1 title before March is up.
Kalas has played a huge part in the heart of the defence propelling Fulham right to the edge of the automatic playoff positions in the Championship as they seek promotion to the Premier League.
Neither ought to rest on their laurels.
Will these two teams, alongside Wales and China, take this competition seriously?
The most crucial part of the season with coaches and players wary of injuries in the run up to World Cup at the end of the season, the intensity of the tournament may be low if the quality high.
Hosts China however will surely go all out for the trophy after failing to reach the final in the debut edition last year, and Ryan Giggs making his first appearance as the Wales boss will want to get off to a good start.
Uruguay will also seek confidence heading into Russia and the Czech Republic will want to improve their rankings before the draw for the qualification stage for the 2020 Euros are made, so plenty to play for even if the matches are still officially friendlies.
Prediction: Uruguay 2-1 Czech Republic
A Suarez and Cavani double act should see them have enough firepower to beat a Czech Republic team without the added motivation of a World Cup to practice for.
Who wins? Let us know your predictions in the comments section below.