PASADENA, Calif. – Uriel Antuna needed just one word to describe his mood after scoring three times in Mexico’s 8-0 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup opener win over Cuba.
Antuna, who was only added to the team’s roster for the tournament just a day earlier, scored a hat trick in just his third senior national team appearance as El Tri demolished Cuba. Raul Jimenez added a brace in the win over the Cubans while Diego Reyes and Alexis Vega each tallied once.
The evening belonged to Antuna, however.
The 21-year-old winger put Mexico on the score sheet in just the second minute with a rebound off a Jimenez shot. Antuna added his second just moments before the end of the first half, taking advantage of yet another scramble in the penalty area to score from inside the six-yard box. The younger completed El Tri’s dominant performance in the 81st minute by racing past his defender to slot a deflection off the Cuban goalkeeper into the back of the net for Mexico’s seventh.
After so much uncertainty about whether or not he’d even be on the roster for the tournament, Antuna was all smiles after his breakout game for Mexico.
“I am very happy with the opportunity that coach Gerardo Martino is giving me. I am happy to be here,” he told CONCACAF postgame. “I will always give my all with at every national team level I have had the opportunity to play in. I am very happy I was able to score, but the team played a great game, so I am very happy to be here.”
And to score in front of the Los Angeles crowd made the performance even more special for Antuna.
“Ever since I came to Los Angeles, the people have treated me very well," he said. "The fans have been amazing, and I have felt at home ever since I first came here.”
Martino warned his young winger not to get too much joy from he described as “only a good night,” but even as he preached caution, he admitted that Antuna’s showing was “excellent.”
Antuna and Mexico now turn their attention to a match against Canada in Denver on Wednesday where the LA Galaxy winger expects yet another top class showing from El Tri.
“The truth is Mexico has demonstrated since the friendly games that the team is ready for big things," he said. "The coach’s style of play is very clear, and I think we are going to do important things in this Cup.”