Paraguay are not exactly short of quality defenders, though that has not stopped Antolin Alcaraz from catching coach Gerardo Martino’s eye. Despite a lack of international experience, Martino called on his services as the South Africa 2010 qualification competition neared its end. The Argentinian was not to be disappointed, with the Club Brugge centre-half turning in some steady displays, and though a starting place in the world finals is not guaranteed, he has put himself firmly in the frame for selection alongside Julio Manzur and Pedro Benitez.
Little known by fans prior to his ascension to the national team, Alcaraz has had to work hard to reach the top. Hailing from a humble background, he worked throughout his teenage years as a builder’s assistant in his hometown of San Roque Gonzalez. His footballing skills came to light during a game with friends at his local club Teniente Farina. Watching from the sidelines was a director of Argentinian club Racing Club, who promptly whisked him off to Avellaneda.
Though it was his first time out of Paraguay, the callow 18-year-old did not disappoint his prospective buyers, who were nevertheless unable to raise the money to buy him, subsequently arranging for him to go on loan to Fiorentina. Unluckily for Alcaraz, the Italians would later experience serious financial problems themselves. Failing to make an appearance in Serie A, he returned home before crossing the Atlantic once more. His destination this time was Portuguese outfit Beira-Mar, where he finally got the chance to show his defensive abilities.
After a season as club captain he joined Belgium’s Club Brugge in 2007, where he was soon attracting interest from other European sides.
It was thanks to his solid displays in Belgium that he received an invitation from Martino to join the Paraguay squad. Making his debut in a friendly against Oman in November 2008, he would have to wait several months for a recall, which eventually came in August 2009, in time for the last four qualifiers for South Africa 2010. His only start in those games came in the 2-1 win away to Venezuela.