Tata Martino hopes Uriel Antuna isn't reading this.
The Mexico manager handed Antuna a surprise start in Saturday's 7-0 win over Cuba, the first match of the Gold Cup. His faith in the LA Galaxy attacker, who made the Gold Cup final roster only as an injury replacement, paid off.
Antuna scored the earliest goal in an official match in Mexico national team history then added two more, taking home the game ball after his first Gold Cup match. While Martino was pleased for the 21-year-old, he also doesn't want him to read too much into the praise that follows.
"Look, sincerely, the first thing I’d tell him is, 'Don’t listen too much. Don’t get on social media too much. Don’t watch too many programs,' Because it surely won’t be us here who misplace the kid," Martino said in his post-match news conference. "We’ll always have words for him that have to do with calm, both in a poor showing and a superlative showings. For someone who recently started, it’s nothing more and nothing less than a good night."
In addition to Antuna's scrappy hat trick, he also set up Alexis Vega for the Chivas forward's debut goal with the national team. Antuna admitted the chance to score a hat trick entered his head once he had his second, but that didn't stop him from looking for opportunities for his teammates. Eventually, Antuna capped the triumph with a goal in the 80th minute, his third of the night.
"Since I scored the second goal, I said, 'I’m going to go for the third goal. If it comes together great. If not, I don’t care.' But then I had the nice assist for Alexis, thinking he’s in a better position than I was," Antuna told Univision . "I said, 'Well, it's your job to play in a team.'
"Then the third came, and it’s all the team. You saw how the team played, how we had the ball the whole game. It’s thanks to them as well."
Antuna earned the start largely because Monterrey attacker Rodolfo Pizarro has a muscular injury, and with the tournament only beginning Martino didn't want to take any chances. Antuna said he wasn't expecting to be a starter this weekend but wanted to make the most of the opportunity.
"I was a bit surprised," Antuna said. "I thought it would be Pizarro and at the last minute he said, ‘Pizarro also has a little knock.’ I said, 'I’m going to take advantage of the chances I’m given.' I was surprised, but also prepared for any moment."
El Tri now have several days of rest before their second group match. That's set for Wednesday against Canada, which also was a convincing winner in its first Gold Cup match with a 4-0 result over Martinique.