ARLINGTON, Texas — While Costa Rica were busy trying to sidestep talk about the team’s last Group A match against favorites Mexico, Cuba national team manager Raúl González wasn’t nearly as bashful, even after his team lost 5-0 to Costa Rica in the Gold Cup opening match.
While a date with Mexico looms for Cuba on June 9 in Charlotte, N.C., González says his team can yet emerge with a victory from their Gold Cup participation.
“Against El Salvador we’ll have a more balanced game,” he said of his Group A finale. “I think we can get three points from them. For now, we have to prepare our strategy to face Mexico and motivate our players so that they can show how good they really are.”
If they do succeed in defeating El Salvador, it would mark Cuba's first Gold Cup victory since the 2003 edition.
But there was little to salvage for Cuba from their 5-0 loss against Costa Rica on Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium, where defensive lapses cost them the game.
“We know Costa Rica plays very good soccer,” González said. “We had seven players on the field with Gold Cup experience, but that wasn’t enough to counter our opponent’s great play. We made mistakes in the back and we’ll work on that before the game against Mexico.”
The mistakes he may be referring to are the constant failed offside traps that were easily beaten by the Costa Rica attackers who knifed right down the middle of the defense. Three of Costa Rica’s five goals were scored on balls sent over the Cuban’s back line which was shaped as a flat four and played like one, too.
The Cubans also failed to convert on their best opportunity, which came just minutes after Marcos Ureña gave los Ticos the early sixth-minute lead. But Alberto Gómez, in alone on the Costa Rican goalkeeper, lobbed his shot over the crossbar.
“We know that we have two strong rivals in Costa Rica and Mexico, and we went through the first 90 minutes,” González added. “Our level is rising little by little but we’ll reach a good point playing teams at the international level.”