Mexico was dominant against a poor Cuba side, scoring 7 times and conceding none, but this game highlighted some negative aspects, too.
Let’s start this off by stating that everybody and their mothers knew Mexico would win this game. It was just a matter of how many goals El Tri would score and if they would concede any. The 7-0 scoreline reflects complete dominance.
For me, this game showed that we probably won’t miss the several veterans who skipped this this tournament or were left out due to injury (Carlos Vela, “Chicharito,” Hirving Lozano, “Tecatito”). Several other players such stepped up, an important occurrence because we all know Mexico is on the verge of a generational change.
LA Galaxy attacker Uriel Antuna got the plaudits, and rightly so, posting a well earned hat trick and proving he deserved his spot on the roster.
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Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez also gets praise for his brace, though he was unfairly treated on Twitter, with people complaining he missed easy opportunities against a team ranked so low (Cuba is No. 175 in the FIFA rankings, Mexico No. 18 in the world). In my opinion, this criticism is unfair because Jimenez is not JUST a finisher, he likes to get involved in the play and allows other players to get involved.
For me, Chivas striker Alexis Vega deserves praise for getting a goal mere minutes after coming on as a second half sub (for Jimenez). He could not have asked for a better competitive debut in an international competition. and he took his goal superbly after a quality attacking move involving Antuna.
Ochoa had a good game even though he did not have much to do. Cuba was no attacking threat whatsoever, but he was forced to make a quality save moments after the Alexis Vega goal. Regardless, Ochoa has proved beyond all doubt that he is far and away Mexico’s best goal keeper right now.
However it wasn’t all positive and perfecto for Mexico. Cuba highlighted two significant issues for Mexico that a better quality opponent can and will exploit in a more ruthless manner than Cuba were able to do.
Firstly, despite scoring 7 goals, Mexico were wasteful and sloppy in the end product of attacking moves. Several of the goals were rebound shots coming off deflections or saves. A good team would clear those away. Again, 7-0 is a sign of good quality attacking play, but wasting chances will harm Mexico against Canada and perhaps Team USA or Jamaica further on.
Secondly, there still seems to be a nervousness or shakiness within the defense and Cuba were allowed some freedom on the few occasions they pressed forward. An outstanding Ochoa save prevented El Tri from losing their clean sheet.
For me, this was basically a training session for El Tri, just a practice for the bigger game against Canada Thursday. It was a great chance to give players like Antuna and Vega valuable experience before we hit the bigger boys. In my opinion, Mexico’s Gold Cup begins with Canada. This Cuba game will have given “Tata” Martino lots to think about in terms of team selection as the Gold Cup progresses.
All in all, a great start for Mexico but they will need to keep their feet on the ground and keep their focus for bigger and more difficult games coming up in the next few weeks.