Cuba’s national team struggled with defections, travel issues and scoring in its first two CONCACAF Gold Cup games.
But Cuba found some offense at the right time Wednesday, beating Guatemala 1-0 in its final Group C round-robin match at Bank of America Stadium.
Forward Maikel Reyes’ point-blank header past Guatemala goalkeeper Paulo Motta in the 73rd minute broke a scoreless tie, sending Cuba (1-2-0, 3 points) on to the quarterfinals for the third time.
“The things that have happened, have already happened,” Cuba team director Raul Gonzalez said through a translator. “The important thing is that we believe in ourselves, and work hard.”
“We felt that we could play better. They executed at the end, and it cost us. In most of the matches, our defense played very well but we had trouble scoring. At the end, that’s what cost us.” Guatemala team director Ivan Sopegno.
Cuba possibly had two players leave the team this week. According to Spanish sports website mediotiempo.com and confirmed by a CONCACAF official, midfielder Dario Suarez defected, failing to return to the team’s hotel after making a trip to a nearby market. Aricheel Hernandez also was listed as absent on Wednesday’s official roster delivered to referees.
Forward Keiler Garcia defected before last Thursday’s match against Mexico in Chicago, and goalkeeper Arael Arguellez left the following day.
By the numbers
2: Shots on goal by Guatemala (0-2-1, 1 point) in the second half, after getting three in the first half.
6: Yellow cards issued. Four went to Cuba.
7: Shots on goal taken by Cuba. Five came during the second half.
8: Saves made by Cuba goalkeeper Diosvelis Guerra.
19: Players Cuba had left on its roster after its recent defections.
While most of the fans watching Wednesday’s Cuba-Guatemala match were there waiting for the evening match – and dressed in Mexico’s green and black – there were a few Guatemala fans, several wildly waving the country’s blue-and-while flag.
Cuba advances to the quarterfinal round, and will play the U.S. team Saturday at MT Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Game time is 5 p.m.