Mexico won their Gold Cup opening game in style on Thursday night as they beat regional minnows Cuba 6-0 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Oribe Peralta, who may not have played if Javier Hernandez had not suffered a pre-tournament injury, scored a hat-trick, with captain Andres Guardado, LA Galazy-bound Giovani dos Santos, and former international outcast Carlos Vela rounding out the scoring.
It was Mexico’s first win in eight games, and will have eased some of the tension that had evidently been building up in the squad.
In truth, if Mexico had failed to win the game there would have been a country-wide uproar, but the clinical and efficient manner in which Miguel Herrera’s men put the match to bed – especially in the first half – should still be praised.
At times Cuba’s defending verged on the comical, as they consistently failed to pick up Mexico’s movement and struggled to handle the pace and power of El Tri’s wide men.
The scoring was opened in the 17th minute by Club America’s Peralta with a tap in, Vela added a second five minutes later after a poor clearance, Peralta smashed in his second in the 37th minute, and on the stroke of half-time Guardado scored the fourth.
The second half took longer to spring to life, but when Peralta got his hat-trick after an hour it merely became a question of how many El Tri would score. Dos Santos thought he added the sixth in the 71st minute only to see it ruled out for offside, but eventually did get his goal with 15 minutes remaining after latching on to a long ball by Carlos Vela.
If you had to find fault with the Mexican performance you could point to occasionally wasteful finishing – there is an argument that with 44 shots more goals should have been scored. In reality the number sounds worse than it is – as the game wore on the efforts got more speculative, with the entire team fancying their chances of getting on the scoresheet.
Herrera knows tougher challenges lie ahead, but for now he can be satisfied with a job well done.
Group C’s other game saw Trinidad and Tobago beat Guatemala 3-1. Trinidad raced into a 3-0 lead inside 25 minutes with goals from Bateau, Cato, and Jones, and thereafter the game was over as a contest.
Guatemala pulled one back in the 62nd minute thanks to Carlos Ruiz, but the outcome of the game never looked like changing.
The Gold Cup action continues Friday night with Honduras vs Panama at 6pm EDT and the United States vs Haiti at 8:30pm EDT. Both games will take place at Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Mexico’s next game is against Guatemala on Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona.