World Cup 2014: Divock Origi makes rapid rise to bring Belgium up to speed

 

Rio de Janeiro

Laboured as Belgium were throughout their 1-0 victory over Russia on Sunday, the manner of the winning strike did illustrate the depth of their squad. Nineteen-year-old Divock Origi is the first teenager to score at the World Cup since Lionel Messi against Serbia & Montenegro back in 2006.

It is a statistic made all the starker when, after the game at the Maracana, the young Lille forward talked about what he did for the last World Cup. “Four years ago I was still 15 years old, at home in Lille watching the players in South Africa, especially Spain,” Origi said. “It’s my first international goal, but it’s my fourth cap. It’s very special to score in this mythical stadium.

“It’s my first full season as a professional. Since January, I started playing regularly. I scored some goals, and I was called up for the national team. Everything is going fast.”

Origi is not exactly the slowest himself. After he come on as a substitute, his pace livened up and stretched the latter stages of the win over Russia. It says a lot that many of the Belgium players were struck by his input in training, having never seen him play before. Origi made only 16 appearances for Lille last  season and coach Marc Wilmots admitted he would not have been in the squad had Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke been fit.

“I hadn’t seen him before this, before the squad was announced,” right-back Toby Alderweireld said. “But in training he has shown a lot. He is a striker that has everything: strong and technical. I’m impressed.”

Belgium, however, were not all that impressive as a team. There remains the feeling that Wilmots is making them a loose collection of talent rather than a true collective.

 

Captain Vincent Kompany feels that is unfair, and that the squad have shown decent growth despite their relative callowness. Teenagers such as Origi – whose father, Mike, was capped by Kenya and won the Belgian championship as a striker with Genk – bring the squad’s average age down to 26. That is the third youngest in the World Cup behind Cameroon and Ghana.

“People forget that,” Kompany said. “So for us, the biggest quality to show that people are not expecting is maturity and calmness. We’ve done that. People are expecting us to run all over the pitch and leave our positions but we don’t do that.

“We know we have the quality to make the difference. It will show more in some games than others but I’m pleased to see that our team looked like a real team.”

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