The Concacaf Nations League kicked off on Thursday and brought a number of engrossing storylines. There were goals galore, a forfeited match, and strong individual performances, to name a few.
With the matches rolling on through the weekend, here are five things we learned on day one of Nations League group play.
1. Michael Martin is a player to watch in League C
Born on the nation’s easternmost island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands, midfielder Michael Martin could be a player who uses the tournament as an opportunity to take the next big step in his career. With his side and the U.S. Virgin Islands locked in a tight affair, the 21-year-old stepped up to capture a massive three points.
The hosts may have held the advantage in nearly every offensive category, but Martin’s first goals for his country in the 60th and 94th minutes proved the difference.
🎥 HIGHLIGHTS: In the first official match at Bethlehem Soccer Complex 🏟, Cayman Islands 🇰🇾 wins 2-0 against U.S. Virgin Islands 🇻🇮 thanks to a double ⚽️⚽️ by Michael Martin. #FollowTheDream #CNL pic.twitter.com/PKRYSYZxqQ— Concacaf Nations League (@CNationsLeague) September 5, 2019
2. Guatemala mean business
Guatemala entered the inaugaral Nations League as one of the teams with the most to gain. While they could have easily found themselves in League B and perhaps even League A, a FIFA-imposed suspension kept them out of qualifying and, as a result, has them facing off in League C.
“Los Chapines” certainly appear to have a sense of urgency, as they kicked off their tournament in style with a 10-0 demolition of Anguilla. C.S.D. Municipal striker Danilo Guerra came off the bench and exploded for four goals after Anguilla keeper Kelvin Liddie produced a number of fine saves to keep his side from being completely buried at the half.
Guatemala will look to keep that momentum going in their next match against Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
3. Substitutes steal the show
Guatemala’s Danilo Guerra may have soared to the top of the scoring list, but there were other substitutes who contributed in big ways on Matchday 1. Jamal Charles came on in the 74th minute for Grenada and it took the 23-year-old less than 10 minutes to snatch the winner against Saint Kitts and Nevis in a 2-1 result.
Meanwhile, striker Thierry Gale subbed in for Barbados in their 4-0 thumping of Saint Martin and netted a peach of a free kick less than five minutes after being on the pitch.
4. Belize find themselves an early hole
Belize narrowly missed out on the Gold Cup and would have felt confident about their chances of winning the group to achieve promotion to League A, but their campaign could not have got off to a worse start. The Jaguars were set to begin play with a trip to French Guinea, but they were unable to take the field due to issues with their charter flight. Per competition regulations, a 3-0 victory was awarded to French Guinea and has them sitting at the top of the group alongside Grenada after they edged out Saint Kitts and Nevis.
League B, Group A is officially wide open.
5. Send the ‘keeper up at your own peril
Bermuda certainly have their work cut out for them in a group that features Panama and Mexico. They benefitted from a bizarre own goal to nearly go into the intermission level with Panama in their opening match. Panama wasted no time in responding, however, as they retook the lead less than two minutes later.
Still, Bermuda battled hard throughout the second stanza and managed to stay within striking distance. Down two goals in stoppage time, they had virtually no choice but to throw their goalkeeper forward in search of a late goal. That decision ended in the worst possible way, as Panama produced a blistering counterattack that resulted in an easy finish into an empty net.
A 🎁 for the striker— FloFC (@FloFC_) September 6, 2019
With the goalie up for the free kick the @fepafut striker makes no mistake, slotting into the empty goal and securing a 4-1 win for his team over @BermudaFA @CNationsLeague #FloFC pic.twitter.com/dvjPJZLuma