Soccer-Cuba coach, six players to arrive on day of first match

By Arturo Silva CHICAGO, July 8 (Reuters) - Cuba are cutting their CONCACAF Gold Cup preparations fine having started training for Thursday's Group C opener against Mexico at Soldier Field with only 17 players and without coach Raul Gonzalez. The Cubans are expecting to be joined early on Thursday by Gonzalez and six members of the island's under-23 team, who have been taking part in an Olympic qualifying tournament. "We've already taken all the necessary measures (to cover for their absence)," Gonzalez's assistant Walter Benitez said without elaborating after Tuesday's practice. "We have come here hoping to get through the group but first we must concentrate on Mexico," he said. "The differences between the two squads are very big, the Mexican national team are among the best on the continent but we want to do ourselves proud and hope not to get hammered." Record six times champions Mexico have lost striker Javier Hernandez to a collarbone injury he suffered during their last warm-up game, a 0-0 draw with Honduras last week, but should still be too strong for Cuba. Cuba are taking part in their eighth Gold Cup and looking to at least repeat their quarter-final place at the 2013 tournament. They also face Guatemala and Trinidad y Tobago. Group B action begins on Wednesday with Jamaica, fresh from taking part in South America's Copa America as a guest team, facing World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica and Canada meet El Salvador. Group A began on Tuesday with hosts and title holders United States beating Honduras 2-1 with both their goals from striker Clint Dempsey and Panama being held 1-1 by Haiti. (Additional reporting by Carlos Calvo in Mexico City; Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by John O'Brien)