As the First Round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying for Qatar (WCQ) 2022 kicked off on Wednesday with 29 teams in search of a first-place finish in their respective group and a berth in the Second Round, there are key players from Suriname, the British Virgin Islands, Belize and the Dominican Republic to watch.
CONCACAF said many of the young talents who shined during the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League (CNL) will be back in action in CONCACAF WCQ.
CONCACAF on Wednesday gave a synapsis of some of the players from Suriname, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Belize and the Dominican Republic, among others, to keep a keen eye on in their respective groups.
In Group B, CONCACAF said Suriname’s Gleofilo Vlijter is “one of the most exciting attacking prospects in the CONCACAF region today.”
The 21-year-old forward currently plies his trade with Beitar Jerusalem in Israel, but has made his name in the international arena with Suriname.
“Simply put, Vlijter was spectacular during the CNL, pouring in 10 goals in six matches to lead all players in all leagues,” CONCACAF said.
It said Vlijter scored four goals in Suriname’s 6-0 win over Nicaragua and bagged braces in both wins over Dominica (4-0, 2-1) and in the 2-2 draw with St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Suriname enters CONCACAF WCQ with a squad full of players from European leagues, with Vlijter serving as one of the headliners, CONCACAF said.
In Group C, CONCACAF said the BVI is one of the teams that have benefitted tremendously from the CNL, adding that one of the players to emerge from that process is 18-year-old forward Tyler Forbes.
“At the age of 17, Forbes became one of the youngest players ever at the international level to record a brace in an official match when he scored twice in BVI’s 4-2 loss to Bonaire to open their group in League C,” CONCACAF said.
“Forbes would finish the CNL with three goals to lead his team and tied for fifth for the most goals scored in League C,” it added. “Now Forbes and BVI will look for more success in Group C of CONCACAF WCQ.”
In Group E, CONCACAF said: “For years, Deon McCaulay has been the man to lead Belize forward in the international arena, but now that task is starting to fall to (Krisean) Lopez.”
It said the 22-year-old FW delivered “clutch performances in both CNL Qualifying and in League B of the CNL.”
In CNL Qualifying, Lopez played in all four matches and tallied a pair of goals in a 4-0 win over the Bahamas before appearing in four of Belize’s matches in League B in which the Central Americans finished third in their group, CONCACAF said.
“That Senior National Team confidence should help Lopez propel himself to another level in CONCACAF WCQ,” it said.
In Group D, CONCACAF said Ronaldo Vasquez, of the Dominican Republic, is the one to watch.
“Football continues to make great strides in the Dominican Republic and part of that growth has been the rise of players like Vasquez,” it said. “The 21-year-old MF (mid-fielder) was a member of the Atletico Pantoja team that reached the 2019 SCCL, in which Vasquez featured in both games for the club.”
CONCACAF said Vasquez was also a key member of the Dominican Republic team that finished third in its group during the CNL, starting five of the Dominican Republic’s six matches after having played in two matches during CNL Qualifying.
Giovanni Padron is part of a young crop of Puerto Rico players hoping to lift the country’s football to unprecedented heights in Group F, according to CONCACAF.
“The Boricuas finished second in their CNL group in League C thanks in part to the steady play of the 22-year-old DF (defendant), who started three of Puerto Rico’s four matches, including the team’s clean sheet 5-0 win over Anguilla at home and the 3-2 win at Anguilla,” CONCACAF said.
It said Padron’s lone international goal came in the latter win versus Anguilla.
“And now in CONCACAF WCQ, Padron and his Puerto Rico teammates will have a new opportunity to put football back in the spotlight in their country,” it said.
In Group A, 23-year-old defendant Roberto Dominguez, of El Salvador, already has nearly 200 league matches under his belt and 35 appearances with El Salvador’s Senior National Team, CONCACAF said.
It said the center back was an anchor in the back line of Salvadoran club Santa Tecla for many seasons, helping the Central American club qualify for two editions of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League and two editions of the Scotiabank CONCACAF League, playing nine CONCACAF club matches in total.
In the CNL, CONCACAF said Dominguez was one of the first names on the team-sheet, “playing every single minute” of both CNL Qualifying (4 matches) and El Salvador’s CNL campaign in League B (6 matches).
“Dominguez even displayed his attacking ability, scoring in El Salvador’s 2-0 win at Montserrat,” CONCACAF said.