PASADENA, California, USA. With the Mexico national selection winning its first four matches under Gerardo Martino, many wondered how the team would transition to its first competitive match of the new cycle. To answer those questions, El Tri thrashed Cuba 7-0 to open up Gold Cup group play in style, partially thanks to a hat trick by Uriel Antuna (2′, 44′, 80′) and a brace by Raul Jimenez (31′, 64′). Diego Reyes (36′) and Alexis Vega (74′) also contributed goals to El Tri‘s largest-ever victory over Los Leones del Caribe in Gold Cup play.
Right from the opening whistle, El Tri had already started to hurt a Cuba side that had only played one official match in 2019. Two minutes in, Uriel Antuna took advantage of a miscontrol of a Jesus Gallardo cross to open the scoring. The goal was Antuna’s first in a Mexico shirt.
From that point, the El Tri barrage on the Cuba defensive lines and goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez kept coming. Failed shots by Raul Jimenez and Diego Reyes off of both crosses and moves through the center were merely warning shots for what would come ahead. Eventually, in the game’s 31st minute, Raul Jimenez finished a Diego Reyes throughball with a low shot to double Mexico’s lead.
Lapses in concentration on set pieces and control of crosses and shots from Cuba’s defenders turned into the generation of both Diego Reyes’ goal and Mexico’s third in the 37th minute off a corner kick and Uriel Antuna’s goal in the 44th minute off a miscontrolled Raul Jimenez pass. Antuna’s second in the evening gave El Tri a 4-0 lead at the break.
When the second half started, El Tri returned to putting the Cuba defended under siege, with Andres Guardado providing the initial effort to stretch the Mexico advantage further. Nineteen minutes in, Raul Jimenez completed his brace, finishing off a Carlos Rodriguez throughball with a low shot. The Rayados midfielder, who garnered the interest of scouts from Manchester United during the 2019 Clausura, played Jimenez into a clear 1-vs-1 situation with a pass. El Tri‘s ability to consistently break Cuba’s organization was a theme of the match.
And after the score reached 5-0, Cuba finally started to generate a chance on Guillermo Ochoa’s goal in the game’s 73rd minute. But soon after Abichell Hernandez’s shot failed to test the Mexico arquero, Alexis Vega finished off a counterattack to take El Tri‘s advantage to 6-0. Then six minutes later, Uriel Antuna finished another Cuba miscontrol in defense to complete his hat trick.
After a win versus an overmatched opponent, manager Gerardo Martino gave some of his thoughts on the performance in Mexico’s post-match press conference. “It’s difficult to make a full analysis after a win like this,” the Argentine manager explained.
Uriel Antuna, an injury replacement for Jorge Sanchez in Mexico’s Gold Cup side, had not expected to start, let alone be Mexico’s hat trick hero. Instead, the LA Galaxy forward was given a surprise start after Rodolfo Pizarro was ruled out due to his lingering muscle injury.
El Tri will look to put itself in good position to qualify for the round of 16 on Wednesday, June 19, when they take on Canada at Mile High Stadium in Denver. The Reds opened up their Gold Cup with a 4-0 win over Martinique right before El Tri took on Cuba. That match kicks off at 10:30 PM EDT (8:30 PM local time, 7:30 PM Pacific DST).
As for Los Leones del Caribe, they will look to try to salvage their chances of advancing out of Group A when they take on Martinique. That match, taking place at Mile High Stadium the same day as Mexico’s match against Canada, kicks off at 8:30 PM Eastern DST.