goal by álvarez

It was at the ’22 World Cup. Argentina was playing Croatia.

The South American favorites, already up a goal in the semifinal thanks to their aging yet ageless talisman, staved off a corner and launched a furious counter. The subtlest Lionel Messi touch pushed the ball ever so gently to his fellow forward, a 22-year-old arachnid named Julián Álvarez.

Retrieving the ball just before midfield like a Barbucho Patagonico dutifully corralling sheep, Álvarez looked up and found himself staring Opportunity directly in the eyes. Croatia’s defense was already at Yacht Week, having stranded Josip Juranović on an island.

As Nahuel Molina dragged himself through Álvarez’s path, Juranović remained stuck to the Man City man, getting not one, but two obligatory and inconsequential defensive touches on the ball. Ever the flirt, it returned to Álvarez immediately before getting away again, this time to blow a kiss at Stuttgart’s David Beckham, Borna Sosa. He collapsed on contact with the ball; he has the heart of a true romantic.

Through all of this, somehow, Álvarez stayed upright, though he was off-balance and had been for what felt like quite some time. That left only keeper Dominik Livaković to beat. After all that? Of course – he slid a touch with the top of the knee, volleyed with the top of the foot and buried his beloved near post, beating Livaković’s low elevation effort.

Messi and Álvarez would reconnect later, this time more on the captain’s terms, but for his first, it was the younger man putting on a show. And why not? Todo el mundo es un escenario, as it were, and the memorable shows contain multitudes: for instance, a perfectly beautiful, horrendously ugly goal.

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