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Mexico attack sparks to life against hapless Cuba

Chicharito Hernandez replacement Oribe Peralta answered the call with a hat trick against Cuba. AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles

CHICAGO -- Mexico may have sunk to 40th in the FIFA rankings on Thursday, but El Tri was in a different class altogether against Cuba, downing the islanders 6-0 in its Gold Cup opener thanks in part to a hat trick from Oribe Peralta.

The victory puts Mexico into the lead on goal difference in Group C after one round of matches, with Trinidad & Tobago defeating Guatemala 3-1 earlier in the day.

Here are our three takes from an easy night's work for Mexico in front of 54,126 fans at Soldier Field.

1. El Tri strikers get much-needed goals

After a run of seven games without a victory stretching back to before the Copa America, a match against the likes of Cuba was exactly what Mexico required and the Caribbean side obliged as Mexico swept it aside without any difficulty.

For a Mexico side that has struggled for goals of late and is without Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, its second highest ever goal-scorer who was injured, it would've been a positive for coach Miguel Herrera to see strikers Carlos Vela and Peralta hitting the back of the net.

And while their finishing was at times wasteful, Peralta netted three and Vela -- in his first official game for El Tri since the 2010 World Cup -- got another, as Mexico had a total of 44 shots and dominated with 76 percent of possession.

Peralta came into the game not having scored since last year's World Cup and took his goals well, furthering his case to start ahead of Giovani dos Santos alongside Vela, which has been a source of much debate.

For his part, Vela ran the Cuban defense ragged by pulling into space and onto the ball at will. Although you could argue both Vela and Peralta had chances to increase the number of goals they scored, this was a solid outing, best encapsulated by Mexico's fifth goal in the 62nd minute, which Vela lofted up from the left wing for Peralta to poke in. Dos Santos made his own statement with a tidy finish in the 75th. To be fair to him, he has looked to be one of Mexico's sharper players over recent games.

Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa stretched and jogged on the spot to keep warm for most the game, but at least he had some goals to watch down at the other end of the field.

2. Piojo's 4-4-2 is outwardly attacking

Mexico's starting 4-4-2 formation appears to be set and is offensive and flexible at its core, at least on the evidence of what was seen on Thursday.

Obviously, Cuba offered little threat, but there is no sense in Mexico playing the 4-4-2 with two banks of four to try to keep things tight. Rather, the system offers El Tri more options down the wings than the 5-3-2, with right midfielder Hector Herrera and left mid Andres Guardado cutting inside at times, leaving full-backs Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layun space to overlap.

It will be risky against better and more threatening teams, but it allows Mexico to have more of its best players on the field. Depending on the fitness of Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez -- who was reportedly injured in the warm-up and replaced by Antonio Rios -- Mexico's midfield four of Herrera, Guardado, Vazquez and Jonathan dos Santos should provide a good balance of possession, tackling and creativity, even if there is a concern about the number of goals coming from midfield of late.

On Thursday, the formation worked and Cuba couldn't cope with Mexico's aggressive approach and attacking intent, but the true test will come further down the line in this Gold Cup.

3. Sorry Cuba not competitive

After listening to Cuba assistant coach Walter Benitez in his media conference on Wednesday and then receiving a team-sheet an hour before the game on Thursday, it was difficult to not feel sorry for the squad.

In front of a partisan crowd in Chicago, Cuba confronted Mexico with only 16 available players. Forward Keilen Garcia defected on Tuesday and six others, including the highly-rated youngest Maykel Reyes, hadn't received the appropriate visa to make the journey to the United States.

All Cuba's players feature for club sides on the island and for a proud sporting nation that has produced more than its fair share of sportsmen and women, Thursday's performance and the events surrounding it was a low.

With the political and diplomatic situation opening up between the governments of Cuba and the United States, it will be fascinating to see if there are repercussions in the short to medium term with regard to soccer in the country.

On the evidence on Thursday's match, Cuba still has a lot of developing to do and having such a one-sided match is clearly not good for the Gold Cup as a spectacle in general.