Given the context entering the game, it appeared Mexico would start their 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup quest with a blowout win over a shorthanded Cuba squad.
And that's exactly what happened, as Mexico defeated Cuba 6-0 on Thursday in Group C play at Soldier Field in Chicago. A hat trick from Oribe Peralta, combined with goals from Carlos Vela, Andres Guardado and second-half substitute Giovani Dos Santos gave Mexico the biggest win in this edition of the tournament to date, as the overmatched Cubans provided no test for El Tri.
The Cuban team arrived at the game under difficult circumstances, as one member of the squad, Keiler Garcia, defected this week, and an additional six players and head coach Raul Gonzalez Triana were unable to arrive in the United States in time for the game, due to "logistical problems." As a result, Cuba only had five substitutes available, including one goalkeeper, as opposed to the customary 12 for full 23-man squads.
Cuba almost opened the scoring -- on the wrong end -- 15 minutes in, as defender Yasnier Napoles' header went off the post of his own goal, but fortunately for him the ball ended up going out of play.
Two minutes later, Peralta gave Mexico the game's first goal, as he pounced on a ball trickling through the box and slammed it past Cuba goalkeeper Diosvelis Guerra.
Vela doubled the lead in the 23rd minute, as he capitalized on a poor Cuban clearance to score while being challenged by a defender.
The Real Sociedad striker had a penalty shout later in the half, as Guerra appeared to trip him in the box, but referee Walter Quesada did not blow his whistle, much to Vela's chagrin.
Peralta scored his second of the night in the 36th minute, when he took a deflected pass into the box and buried the shot to make it 3-0. Guardado then got in on the goals just before halftime, receiving a ball over the top from Antonio Rios and sending a looping header past Guerra to give El Tri a four spot after 45 minutes.
Peralta completed his hat trick in the 62nd minute, as he received a lob across the box from Vela, his deflected header trickling towards the open goal before the Club America man made no mistake by pushing it over the line.
Vela almost added to his total on the night, as his left footed shot clanged off the far post with just over 20 minutes to go, and Dos Santos had a tally a few minutes later that was chalked off due to an offside call. But he got on the board in the 75th minute, making a run to a long ball from Miguel Layun over the top, easily slotting the subsequent shot home.
Mexico will next play neighbors Guatemala, who lost in their tournament opener 3-1, on Sunday evening (9 pm ET, FOX Sports 2/Univision/UDN in US, SN World in Canada), and Cuba will take on Trinidad and Tobago in the matinee of the doubleheader (6:30 pm ET, FOX Sports 2/UDN in US, Sportsnet in Canada).