The Concacaf Nations League is bound to be a source of plenty of drama, intrigue, and fierce battles between countries looking to move up in the competition. Though not all the teams played in the first two matchdays of the inaugural tournament, there was plenty to digest from the first 34 games played at the beginning of September.
Maybe most notably is Suriname out of League B, primed to win Group D, which would propel the country to League A for the next Nations League and qualify them for their first Gold Cup since 1985. A big part of Suriname's opening two wins was Gleofilo Vlijter bursting onto the scene, scoring six goals in two wins.
Vlijter, who recently joined Aris Limassol in Cyprus, had just one cap to his name before September's games against Dominica and Nicaragua. The then-19-year-old, who turned 20 on September 17, was given a start on the road against Dominica, and immediately repaid the faith of manager Dean Gorré.
The youngster opened the scoring in the seventh minute, holding off a defender and then deftly passing the ball around the keeper to give Suriname the lead in Windsor Park in Dominica. If only we knew what was to come from Vlijter.
After Dominica leveled the scoring later in the first half, Vlijter nearly won the game in the second half, being denied by the woodwork. However, just before the start of second-half stoppage time, the striker timed a run perfectly into the box and netted the game-winner for Suriname. For a team that was looking to qualify for their first Gold Cup in over 30 years, it was a perfect start on the road, and it was all thanks to Vlijter.
But my oh my, how Vlijter followed it up several days later at home against Nicaragua. Given the start once again, it took two minutes longer for the 19-year-old to open the scoring, finding the back of the net in the ninth minute. In the 11th minute, he doubled his tally with a powerful left-footed strike from the top of the box.
He completed his hat trick in the 30th minute, putting the visitors down 4-0 in barnstorming fashion. Collecting the ball in the box, Vlijter was able to keep possession away from the Nicaragua keeper and smash a shot into the goal — despite the presence of two defenders on the line. Vlijter finished his standout performance in the second half with a scrappy goal to give him four in the game and six overall from the two matches.
Given Vlijter's performances, it seems that Gorré has certainly found the striker for the foreseeable future for Suriname. But the attacker should face a bit more competition in October when Suriname face off home and away against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. SVG currently sit in second place in Group D, with four points from their first two games. Vincy Heat represent the greatest threat for Suriname to win the group, earning a promotion and spot in the 2021 Gold Cup.
If Vlijter can continue to find the back of the net, though, then Suriname might just find themselves at the top of Group D by the end of the October international window, closing in on finishing top of their group.