Easy Group, Easy Start…
by Luis Eduardo Flores
The much awaited first game for the six time champions had finally arrived. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that El Tri was going to win this game. For anyone that thought otherwise; you were terribly wrong. Long before the end of the game, El Tri made this an over gloried training session.
Both Mexico and Cuba came into this match with some setbacks (major setbacks for Cuba). As we all know, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was injured in a friendly match against Honduras. If this was a different tournament (ex: Copa America); Chicharito’s absence would be devastating. Earlier in the day we learned that Mexico lost another player due to injury. Jose Juan Vazquez (aka “El Galito) had a muscle injury during warm ups. Even so, they’ve gone through worse situations. Given that Mexico is in the easiest group of the Gold Cup, we expect to see wins with little to no goals conceded. It was a completely different story for Cuba.
Cuba came into this tournament missing a few things; seven players (one defector) and their head coach (per MSL.com). Pretty much they came unprepared. Plus the fact that Mexico is 11-0 against Cuba; so history is on Mexico’s side.
Mexico started the match lightly. Within a few minutes, they showed the small Cuban team why they are the six time Gold Cup champions. We immediately noticed that Coach
Miguel Herrera was looking to attack through the center instead of attacking through the sides. As for Cuba, they were playing in “ultra defensive” mode. They were fortunate enough to get some possession.
At the 9th minute, Mexico finally got their first major chance to score (it’s not like they were trying hard). Hector Herrera was fouled and Andres Guardado was the man to take the free kick. Guardado’s free kick was on-target, but Diosvelis Guerra made the block. The ball was cleared, but a foul by El Maza gave Cuba a free kick. Cuba made nothing out of this chance.
Thus far, it looks like Cuba strategy is to steal the ball, since ball possession has remained mainly on Cuba’s defensive end. No one can blame them, they’ll be fortunate to walk out with at least one goal.
Mexico finally started their scoring engine. At the 17th minute, Oribe Peralta right footed shot from the center of the box to the top left corner was on point. That was a solid goal, thanks to the assist by Guardado. Ironically; a second before the goal, the commentators asked; “How long before Mexico gets nervous if they don’t score?”
In the moments that followed; Guardado, Herrara, Peralta, and Jonathan dos Santos took respective on-target shots, but all were saved by Cuba’s goalie. That’s one way to break down the already weak Cuban defense. By the fifth shot, Cuba’s goalie couldn’t block another shot and Vela netted Mexico’s 2nd goal. Vela tried to add another goal at the 30th minute, but his shot/slide went too high.
At that point, Mexico already had 77% possession over Cuba’s 23%. Mexico wasn’t playing their best, but they had no reason to do so. Mexico already holds a 11-0 record against Cuba. There really wasn’t any reason unleash a fury of goals within a couple of minutes. The reality of the matter is that Mexico was going to win this game no matter what.
After a Mexican corner kick and a missed attempt by Paul Aguilar, Mexico scored their 3rd goal thanks to Peralta. Another six minutes of continuous attempts by Mexico resulted in another goal; this time by Guardado. With that goal, the 1st half came to an end.
First let’s point out the obvious. Memo Ochoa was extremely bored throughout the first half. Perhaps he was stretching, tweeting, or he went out to the concession stand for some snacks. Seriously; this has been such a one-sided game in which the defense were playing more towards the midfield and leaving Ochoa by himself. As mentioned before, there is no need for Mexico to slaughter Cuba with goals. The possession percentage and goals speak for themselves. At the rate in which 1st half was going, maybe Ochoa should just sit at the bench until he’s needed.
Once the 2nd half started, Cuba started to try a tad bit harder. Seven minutes in and one of Cuba’s Armando Coroneaux almost got a breakaway run but he was just too slow. Coroneaux ended up being subbed out due to injury. That was Cuba’s first highlight. Cuba’s performance was so bad to the point in which Vela was not taking the game seriously.
Peralta added more damaged with another goal at the 62nd minute mark. The Mexican forwards fired several shots until Peralta’s found the back of the net. This recent goal still didn’t satisfy Mexico’s quench for more.
Giovanni dos Santos ended Mexico’s rain of goals with one at the 71st minute and another at the 75th. The game reached the point at which we were just expecting back-to-back goals. As for Memo; he is a penguin in the middle of the desert. He pretty much didn’t belong in the game.
Cuba almost added more damaged to themselves when the defense botched and nearly scored an goal. Maybe they were doing Mexico the favor of scoring. Cuba finally added some pressure onto Mexico’s defense at the 87th minute due to a defensive foul by El Maza and then one by Jesus Manuel Corona. Both free kick attempts resulted in nothing for the Cubans. Peralta tried one more time to score but his shot was blocked.
The game ended with a foul by Peralta and a free kick by Angel Horta on Cuba’s defensive half. Cuba’s humiliation finally ended. Meanwhile, Mexican now has to focus on Guatemala. Mexico cannot get too comfortable with such an easy win.