Los Angeles (AFP) – Favourites Mexico and group rivals Canada cruised to lopsided wins on Saturday as the CONCACAF Gold Cup got under way.
Mexico, who are chasing a record eighth title in the championship for teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, thrashed Cuba 7-0 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
Canada, the only team to have broken Mexico and the United States’ dominance of the Gold Cup since the tournament was rebooted in 1991, had earlier trounced Martinique 4-0 in their Group A game.
Mexico, playing in their first tournament under former Argentina coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, are without several regular players including Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Hector Herrera and Jesus Corona.
But the absentees were barely noticed as Mexico cut loose against a feeble Cuba side in front of around 65,000 spectators at the famous old stadium which hosted the 1994 World Cup final.
Los Angeles Galaxy winger Uriel Antuna scored a hat trick in only his second international appearance as Mexico outclassed their opponents.
Antuna scored twice in the first half, either side of goals from Raul Jimenez and Diego Reyes, to put Mexico into a 4-0 lead at the break.
Jimenez then bagged a second early in the second half before his replacement Ernesto Vega made it 6-0 in the 74th minute. Antuna completed his hat-trick 10 minutes from time to cap a fine display.
Earlier, Canada had been similarly dominant against Martinique.
Two goals from Belgium-based forward Jonathan David set the Canadians on the way to a straightforward three points before strikes from Junior Hoilett and Scott Arfield boosted the scoreline.
Canada were always in control against Martinique, an overseas region of France who are not members of FIFA.
But it took a blunder from Martinique goalkeeper Loic Chauvet and midfielder Daniel Herelle to give Canada the breakthrough on 33 minutes.
A loose pass from Chauvet was miscontrolled by Herelle, and Gent striker David pounced on the loose ball before coolly lifting his finish into the net.
David added a second in the 53rd minute, springing the Martinique defense after Sam Piette’s clever lofted pass over the top to make it 2-0.
Cardiff City’s Hoilett added a third on 63 minutes, bundling home a perfectly weighted cross from Bayern Munich teenager Alphonso Davies.
Rangers midfielder Arfield completed the scoring four minutes later, shooting low into the bottom corner to make it 4-0.