No matter what level of football you play it is a recipe for disaster to play a high-line, fail to apply any pressure in midfield when the opposition has the ball and forget to track runners from deep positions.
Cuba managed to do all three and for their troubles they received a good spanking from a Costa Rica side that hardly had to break sweat. Sporadic individual touches from some of the Cuban players should not be interpreted as a sign that this team is anything more than a low-risk banana skin in this edition of the Gold Cup.
While Cuba flattered to deceive in areas of the field where Costa Rica were happy to allow them to have the ball, once position switched Costa Rica were decisive in the decision-making and execution. When Cuba turned possession over Costa Rica looked to get the ball forward quickly and preferably behind the Cuban back four and to wide positions.
The Costa Rican’s showed a lot flexibility in their shape as a back four easily morphed into a three man back line or even just two with the full backs pushing forward to flood the midfield or to bolster the attack.
Costa Rica played with a purpose while Cuba looked devoid of ideas other than to pass the ball to someone in the same coloured jersey. When that failed they were too slow to apply pressure on Costa Rica and paid a heavy price.
In fact the price might have been even stepper so badly was Cuba outplayed. Two goals up at half-time had Costa Rica was on easy street and two more right after half time put the game beyond any shadow of a doubt. A cracking fifth goal completed the scoring and you were left with a sense that if they had needed to score more goals Costa Rica could have done it and with ease.
I doubt Costa Rica will see an easier opponent in the Gold Cup. Meanwhile Cuba will have to endure another thrashing or two if they remain tied to such outmoded and pointless tactics and display such lethargy when losing possession.
The second game of the evening brought us the same score line as the opener but a closer contest – in the first half anyway.
Mexico and El Salvador shadow boxed with each other for the first quarter of the match but as half-time approached Mexico’s superior passing, movement and pace began to cause the El Salvador defence more problems and gaps stated to open up and clear chances became more frequent.
Three goals from Mexico between the 55th and 60th minutes put paid to the match as any kind of contest as El Salvador could not deal with a side that just had more gears ready and available. The first goal exemplified the difference between the two sides.
Dos Santos skinned the El Salvador defence for sheer pace and his cut back found an adventurous Juarez as he drove to the opposition’s six yard box. The first effort was saved and Suarez was a trifle fortunate to knock the rebound beyond a despairing keeper.
Substitute De Nigris first contribution was the score the second goal and then came a third from Javier Hernandez. Hernandez went on to complete his hat trick which will surely become one of the leading stories tomorrow in England.
El Salvador will look to the effort they put forward in the first forty-five minutes as something more indicative of their ability but in the end they just could not come to grips with the pace and drive of a Mexico side.
Next action for the four teams in Group A is on Thursday in Charlotte. Costa Rica plays El Salvador followed by Mexico against Cuba.
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