PSG forward Edinson Cavani struck early in the second half to lift La Celeste up against the Dragons in an animated encounter at the Guangxi Sports Center Stadium in Nanning.
— Selección Uruguaya (@Uruguay) March 26, 2018
Like Maasai warriors, Wales and Uruguay sprung to life in an instant and took no time to settle at all. An energetic start ensued as this was, after all, a final of sorts, and everyone seemed keen impress. Uruguay, particularly, resembled something of an overeager student who didn’t wait to be called upon.
La Celeste stood up first as Rodrigo Betancur sent a majestic crossfield pass for Nahitan Nandez. The Boca Juniors man knew to look for an incoming Luis Suarez but the striker could only hit the post. And it was still rattling when Gareth Bale let fly an ambitious effort straight to Fernando Muslera at the other end.
Wales came close again when Sam Vokes sidefooted a Harry Wilson cutback straight into the Uruguayan keeper, and if the adrenaline maybe rushing, nobody fooled themselves in thinking this was anything more than a friendly. Indeed, Ashley Williams helped Suarez up immediately after appearing to barge into the Barca forward – who seemed to go down easily – while Gareth Bale seemed keen to display his footloose routine.
Plenty of early chances for La Celeste and the Dragons
In an apparent bid to introduce an exciting brand of football to the Chinese, both teams ensured chances kept coming in. Andy King’s weak strike did not justify the powerful run he set it up with while at the other end, Matias Vecino half-volleyed just wide of the post.
After a vivid display of attacking prowess, the usual combative nature of the two sides crept in. This time, Wales volunteered first and not many could make a better demonstration of bite in the tackles than the Dragons themselves. To prevent Uruguay breaking, Joe Allen and Ben Davies sandwiched Nandez’ legs, after which neither looked particularly distressed in making agricultural challenges of that sort.
Suarez hits post a second time for Uruguay
This situation reinforced the fact that up to that point, Uruguay had been slightly the better side. They should have been 2-0 up when a Williams backpass handed Suarez the chance on a golden plate. However, the striker found the post for a second time, even after rounding the keeper Hennessey.
It took a while for Edinson Cavani to grow into the game but his first contribution was spectacular nonetheless. Receiving the ball in the centre, the striker forced an acrobatic save from Hennessey with a stinging belter from distance. Yet again, Ryan Giggs’ side immediately followed suit.
As King latched on to a loose ball once again, he lets fly another one from distance but this time he strongly tested Muslera’s shot stopping ability. Deep in first half stoppage time, Wales almost took the lead when Vokes thought he had scored from Bale’s flick on. However, Muslera, in his 92nd cap for Uruguay, produced his best save of the night yet.
Intense second-half start until Cavani taps in from close
Like in first half’s opening, the two opponents hit the ground running at the start of the second. Wilson whipped his delivery in straight to Hennessey while Vecino struck just wide off a Cavani lay off. If they were still finding their feet early in the first half, Uruguay cannot offer any excuse after the restart and Cavani didn’t disappoint. As Diego Godin pumped a high ball in behind the Welsh defence, Rodriguez latched in before squaring centrally to the PSG striker for the easiest of tap-ins.
— Edi Cavani Official (@ECavaniOfficial) March 26, 2018
After Wales launched a feeble attempt to draw level through King who struck just wide, Oscar Tabarez’ side intensified their attack. Their aggressive rhythm and pomp on the ball left the shellshocked Welsh playing at half-speed. Had Cavani made the slightest of touches with Varela’s delightful cutback, Uruguay should have gone two goals up. And judging by his reaction, the Uruguay forward knew he missed a great opportunity to give his side some breathing space in a game that still very much hung in the balance.
With 25 minutes to go, the first real dip in tempo of what has been an entertaining affair arose. The lull proved short-term, however, as Uruguay shifted into gear once again and made promising forays into Hennessey’s box. Perhaps having had enough of defending deep in their own half, Wales finally sprung to life.
Wales rally late but Uruguay hold on
The Dragons looked to counter through Bale whom Uruguay successfully corraled through robust, if at times, illegal, challenges. But the Welsh talisman did manage to go forward without being fouled on one occasion. He fed King at the edge of the box and it looked promising for the Dragons. However, the Swansea midfielder’s strike veered wide again albeit through a deflection this time.
GARETH BALE: ‘We’ll keep learning and keep trying to progress’
— sgorio (@sgorio) March 26, 2018
After which, it was Lee Evans’ turn to thump a long-range effort against Muslera. It looked off target, but Muslera didn’t know that and so the Uruguay keeper collected the ball to ensure safety. As the match drew to a close, Wales seemed closer to finding the back of the net. Evans looked a notable substitution, striking again through a half-volley. This time, however, Muslera had it covered and the Galatasaray keeper felt comfortable in watching the ball trickle wide of the post.
As Welsh ganged up in Uruguay’s half, it was La Celeste’s turn to hit on the counter. Suarez beat the offside trap to latch on a Lucas Torreira ball. But he didn’t beat Hennessey, however, as Connor Roberts recovered superbly to poke the ball out of Suarez’ reach. That comprised the game’s last meaningful stretch of play and by the looks of it, Wales needed another 90 minutes to convert a chance against Uruguay who, in regulation time, actually did one.