Julian Alvarez’s meteoric rise to the World Cup stage

It seemed like it was only a few weeks ago that Julian Alvarez was a starry-eyed youngster basking in the bright lights of Argentina’s Primera Division.

With his former club River Plate, he looked like the best player to ever grace a football pitch and still had room for improvement.

Avid River Plate fans knew that Alvarez was going to be a big player.

In his breakaway season in 2021, he became the leading goalscorer, tied for sixth in assists, and carried his side to their 37th ever league title.

All of South America knew he could grow big too. His skillful performances in the Copa Libertadores put him on the radars of countless scouts and earned him worldwide recognition.

And look at him now. Alvarez dominated Argentina in 2021 and signed with Manchester City and managed the albiceleste to a World Cup final.

His arduous rise to the top of football can be chronicled in some of his legendary performances in both Buenos Aires and Manchester.

An up and coming Argentine ace

Julian Alvarez’s majestic rise to the top of the football world was imminent, and River Plate fans knew it when he put on his boots for the club’s senior team at the age of 18.

It was under the bright lights of the Estadio Mãs Monumental that he made his first appearances and scored his first professional goals.

His breakaway season would come in 2021. The speedy winger marked his arrival into the mainstream in a Super classic against Boca Juniors. He opened the scoring for a packed, hostile stadium with a well-hit shot in the middle of the first half.

He doubled River Plate’s lead with his seventh goal of the season, a well-hit tap towards the end of the first half. He single-handedly led River Plate to victory against arguably their fiercest competition, giving them a slim lead going into matchday 14.

Alvarez’s River Plate went on to win the league with El Aranita winning top scorer awards. He went on to win the prestigious South American Player of the Year award and was also named to the South American Team of the Year. He finally signed for Manchester City in January amid interest from AC Milan, West Ham and more top sides.

It not only earned him praise from European scouts, but also the attention of Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni. He eventually played and ended up starting a few games ahead La Albicelesteincluding a 1-1 draw with Ecuador.

The game was not important as both Ecuador and Argentina had secured qualification for the World Cup and faced a weaker side. But it meant a lot to Alvarez.

Indeed, he scored his first goal for Argentina on his first start. His quick finish to send his effort past a horde of defenders put Argentina ahead, and although Enner Valencia’s injury-time winner restored the tie, the goal would be the first in a long list of goals for Argentina.

Pure domination

When discussing Alvarez’s dominance, it’s hard to leave out his game with six goals (!!) against an unlucky team from Alianza Lima in the Copa Libertadores.

His performance feels a bit like a lucid dream looking back on it. But Alvarez, as usual, delivered the impossible as he dominated the reigning Peruvian champion.

Alvarez started early and worked his way through a porous Alianza defense to score the first goal of the match in the fifteenth minute.

He returned with another goal just three minutes later, finishing a cross with a smooth-footed finish. But he wasn’t done yet. The City striker got his long-awaited hat-trick in the 41st minute, beating the keeper with one of his signature long shots.

With the game all but lost to Alianza as they lost by 4 with 35 minutes remaining, Alianza was stunned to see Alvarez still pushing and running for the ball. X

He scored an easy tap on a goalkeeping blunder in the 54th and chipped the keeper in the 57th for his fifth goal of the game. Alvarez rubbed salt into Alianza’s bloody wound with a great dribbling move to evade two defenders and score his sixth goal of the game. Julian Alvarez finished the game with two match balls and an 8-1 victory, proving to be the bane of every Alianza fan’s existence.

After Alvarez eventually moved to Manchester, it took him a while to adjust to the new landscape. He trailed players like Erling Haaland, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish on the offensive depth chart. But it didn’t stop him from excelling. Take his Masterclass Champions League against Sevilla.

Of course, the game was pointless; Manchester City had already secured first place in their group; but Alvarez showed up anyway. Rafa Mir scored Sevilla’s first to establish an early lead in the 31st, but Alvarez helped City hit back.

He carved out a lazy pass with his dogged pressure before playing an accurate through ball to Rico Lewis, who buried his golden opportunity in the 52nd.

Alvarez took the lead with an own goal, grabbed a superb through ball, caught Sevilla’s Bounou off his line and tapped in an easy chance.

His second-ever Champions League goal gave Manchester City a well-deserved lead. Once again, Alvarez squeezed water out of stone by creating a great opportunity.

His press surprised a Seville defender and he launched a very powerful counter-attack. Alvarez passed the ball to Riyad Mahrez, who easily scored City’s third goal of the night

Doha wait

Alvarez deservedly made the 26-man squad for the World Cup, albeit not as one of the main starting forwards. The City striker was behind Lautaro Martinez and his childhood idol Lionel Messi on the depth chart. But surprisingly, the position started to open.

Martinez started off with mediocre performances. He was regularly caught offside against Saudi Arabia.

He had another mediocre performance against Mexico where he couldn’t get very involved in the attack. Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni decided to gamble on the precocious Alvarez by giving him a start in a crucial clash with Poland.

Alvarez proved Scaloni right. He scored in their 2-0 win over Poland to give them top spot in their group, and he scored another goal in their 2-1 nail-biter against Australia. It leads us to a grand semi-final against a Croatian side looking to win the unimaginable and upset Argentina.

Not on guard from Julian Alvarez.

Alvarez showed why Pep Guardiola and Stefano Pioli, among others, recognized him as a great talent. He tore up Croatia’s stout defense and drew a penalty in the 32nd minute to give Argentina an early lead.

Alvarez burst through again in the 39th minute. He picked up a shoved pass near the center line and used his impressive speed to counterattack. After beating both Marcelo Brozovic and Josip Juranovic, he defeated Dominik Livakovic to extend Argentina’s lead.

Alvarez’s dominance over a disorderly Croatian defense didn’t end there. A magnificent assist from Messi that saw him beat Josko Gvardiol ended in an accurate Alvarez finish. The final from the penalty spot gave Argentina a comfortable tie with three goals and a final place in the World Cup final.

With Lionel Messi’s legacy and Argentina’s reputation on the line, Julian Alvarez looks set to appear in the biggest game of his life. Representing his hometown of Caichin and his youth club River Plate, he will definitely make an appearance against France.

Photo credit: IMAGO/TT

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