CHICAGO: Mexico’s Gold Cup quest got off to an emphatic start with a crushing 6-0 demolition of short-handed Cuba in their opening game on Thursday (Friday in Manila) at Soldier Field.
Cuba came into the contest in disarray after learning that forward Keiler Garcia was missing from the lineup, apparently after having defected, news reports said.
The US media also reported that six players and head coach Raul Gonzalez were unable to make it to Chicago in time for the match because of visa problems.
That left Cuba with just 16 players to face powerhouse Mexico, who have won the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament six times.
In the other Group C game Thursday, Trinidad & Tobago also got off to a flying start with a 3-1 victory over Guatemala in Chicago.
Oribe Peralta scored a hat trick while Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela scored a goal each in the rout for El Tri, who finished with 18 shots on goal to Cuba’s one.
Peralta opened the scoring with a right footed shot from the center of the box in the 17th minute after seizing control of a headed pass from teammate Guardado.
Vela capitalized on poor clearing attempt by the Cuban defense five minutes later to make it 2-0 before Peralta potted his second of the game with a blast to the bottom left corner in the 37th minute.
Guardado snuck past the defense to head another in and make it 4-0 before the half and then Peralta completed the hat trick by outjumping goalkeeper Disovelis Guerra and a defender to head it home halfway through the second half.
The game was a rematch of the 2011 Gold Cup group stage game which Mexico won 5-0. Mexico has met the US in three of the last five finals but the El Tri have been experiencing a rough patch of late as they have been hit by some key injuries and came into this tournament riding a seven-match losing streak.
But their problems are paltry compared to turmoil that surrounds Cuba who always seem to come into the Gold Cup under a dark cloud.
Garcia is believed to have deserted Wednesday and did not show up for a team breakfast Thursday morning. Assistant coach Walter Benitez took control of the team for Thursday’s game but officials are hopeful that Gonzalez and the six players will be able to join the team in time for Sunday’s game against Trinidad & Tobago.
Trinidad & Tobago stunned Guatemala with three goals in the opening 25 minutes then held on for the easy win in the early game.
Sheldon Bateau, Cordell Cato and Joevin Jones scored for the Caribbean side. Striker Carlos Ruiz netted the lone goal for Guatemala in the second half.