Gold Cup: Mexico trying hard not to underestimate Cuba

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Always favorites to win the Gold Cup, especially in this edition after opening with a 5-0 win against El Salvador, it would be understandable to think that Mexico are approaching Tuesday’s game against Cuba (9 pm ET, Galavisión) very calmly and with an excessive level of confidence.

Considering that the Caribbeans were defeated handily by Costa Rica in their first game by a score of 5-0, and that their soccer history leaves something to be desired, this seemingly puts Mexico at ease ahead of Thursday’s game between the two nations.

Still, Mexico want to remain sharp and not lose their concentration while trying to avoid overconfidence by looking at the upcoming game as any other.

“There is an impression that we are a little [overconfident] to take on a team where you can supposedly lower the rhythm and relax a bit,” defender Carlos Salcido said on Wednesday. “If we want to do something important in this [Gold Cup], we have to take all out games seriously. We have to cover a lot of things; all the games are different and we have to try to go get a result so that we can qualify [for the next round].”

Attacking midfielder Andrés Guardado agrees that the worst mistake that Mexico can make at this stage is underestimating Cuba, since anything can happen during those 90 minutes.

“If we come out thinking that it’ll be easy, that only by stepping on the field we’ll win, we would be very mistaken,” Guardado said. “Cuba has a pride and a status that they’re going to want to defend, and they’re going to want to make difficult [for us]. We have to be humble and play a good game.”

Even though their opponent isn’t the most prominent squad in the tournament, the meaning of the game itself is very important as a win would see Mexico through to the next round. Still, all the humble talk is difficult to take at face value when it can be clearly seen during the practices that the players seem relaxed.

During Wednesday’s morning practice at the University of Charlotte, José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s men enjoyed a light-hearted session.

After completing some warm-up runs for about 20 minutes, the team played a small-sided game where the goalkeepers Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera and Jonathan Orozco acted as forwards, while Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Pablo Barrera improvised in defense. The midfielders were also taking turns in goal.

Even if they don’t want to underestimate their rivals, Mexico’s players are conscious that if they play to their full potential, they’ll counter effectively any attempt of good soccer Cuba may throw their way.

In that sense, Hernández was more direct in the objective that El Tri has against Cuba.

“We have to win,” Chicharito said. “We want to look for a win in every game and keep going towards our main objective, which is reaching the final and winning the tournament. We have to take it step by step and we obviously have to adjust some details.”