When the four CONCACAF nations at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar kick off, it will be a seminal moment for all of the players involved, according to CONCACAF.
“For many, it will mark their debut on football’s grandest stage, yet the groundwork to reach the World Cup pinnacle came years ago as youth national team players,” said CONCACAF on Friday.
It was in various CONCACAF Youth National Team (YNT) tournaments that so many of these players got their first taste of international football.
“And so, it is worth looking back at some of the players who years ago featured in multiple CONCACAF YNT tournaments and now will play in a Senior Men’s World Cup,” CONCACAF said.
It said US DF Shaq Moore rose up through the ranks of the US YNTs, appearing in three games at the 2013 CONCACAF Men’s Under-17 Championship in Panama and then five games at the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 Championship in Jamaica, helping the U.S. secure a Third-Place finish in the latter.
CONCACAF said Kellyn Acosta was a teammate of Moore’s on that 2015 CMU20 squad, as the current LAFC man played in two games in Jamaica.
Prior to that, Acosta helped the U.S. take home a first-place finish at the 2011 CMU17 in Jamaica, CONCACAF said.
It said one of the players to watch for the U.S. in Qatar will be 20-year-old attacking midfielder Giovanni Reyna, who got his start in CONCACAF competition at a very young age.
In 2017, CONCACAF said Reyna was part of the U.S. team that were runners-up at the CONCACAF Under-15 Championship in which Reyna scored two goals in five games.
Two years later, at the 2019 CMU17, CONCACAF said the U.S. had another runner-up finish, “thanks in large part to Reyna, who tallied six goals in six games and earned Best XI honors.”
CONCACAF said Mexico winger Uriel Antuna has always been prolific in CONCACAF play, especially in national team competition.
He was named to the Best XI at the 2017 CMU20 in Costa Rica after his five-goal haul and then followed that up with an outstanding performance in the 2020 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship held in March 2021, CONCACAF said.
In Guadalajara, it said Antuna was another Best XI inclusion after scoring three goals in five games to help Mexico win the title.
CONCACAF said 2015 was “a big year” in the youth development of Erick Gutierrez.
Fresh off his Best XI performance in the 2015 CMU20 in Jamaica in which he appeared in four games, CONCACAF said Gutierrez helped Mexico claim the 2015 CMOQ, playing in four games.
CONCACAF said FW Hirving Lozano has already proven to be a big star with Mexico’s Senior Men’s Team, “but he was just as prodigious in CONCACAF YNT tournaments.
“Lozano took home the Golden Boot and Best XI honors at the 2015 CMU20 in Jamaica after his five-goal display in five games,” said CONCACAF, adding that, that same year, he scored a goal in five games to collect another Best XI as Mexico won the CMOQ.
While Qatar 2022 will mark the World Cup debut of every single Canada player, CONCACAF said there are “plenty of players on the roster who boast Concacaf YNT tournament experience,” beginning with 39-year-old MF Atiba Hutchinson, who appeared in two separate editions of the CMU20 in 2001 and 2003.
Hutchinson was also a member of Canada’s squad that took part in the 2004 CMOQ, CONCACAF said.
It said that not only is MF Samuel Piette one of the few players in the CONCACAF region to have played in two separate editions of the CMOQ, but he also featured for Canada in both a CMU17 and a CMU20.
CONCACAF said Piette played in three games in the 2012 CMOQ and then another five matches in the 2015 CMOQ, in addition to four games at the 2011 CMU17 and three games at the 2013 CMU20 in which he scored two goals.
Striker Lucas Cavallini was “no stranger to CONCACAF youth tournaments as well”, scoring a goal in three games at the 2011 CMU20 and then tallying another goal across three games in the 2012 CMOQ, CONCACAF said.
It said veteran MF Yeltsin Tejeda has “ample CONCACAF experience going back to his days as an U17 player for the Ticos at the 2009 CMU17 in Mexico, where he played in three games.”
Two years later, at the CMU20 in Guatemala, CONCACAF said Tejeda featured in nine games.
CONCACAF said Tejeda’s rise up the Costa Rican youth ranks continued by “being named to the 2012 CMOQ squad, with whom he played in one match.”
At age 18, CONCACAF said Jewison Bennette is “one of the revelations of the Costa Rica team, but that is nothing new for the left winger, who scored a goal in three games at the 2019 CONCACAF U15 Championship.”
“Including Bennette on the squad for the 2022 CMU20 in Honduras was an easy call, and there he starred in three games for the Ticos,” CONCACAF said.
It said FW Joel Campbell was one of the heroes of the Costa Rica team that reached the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, “but his international start came back in the 2009 CMU17 in Mexico when he scored two goals.”
Two years later, at the 2011 CMU20, CONCACAF said Campbell was “at his best”, scoring six goals in five games to win the Golden Boot in Costa Rica’s runner-up finish.
“He was just as lethal in CMU20 Qualifying that same year, with two goals in four games,” CONCACAF said.
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be played from Nov. 20 to 18 Dec. 18, with 32 teams competing across 64 matches in the 22nd edition of the global event.