Soccer-Origi goal merely exposes Belgium's weakness


By Mitch Phillips

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 22 (Reuters) - Divock Origi was the toast of Belgium after shooting the country into the World Cup second round on Sunday but his 88th-minute winner against Russia could not disguise a lack of firepower that looks set to limit their tournament prospects.

The 19-year-old, who was an uncapped surprise inclusion in Marc Wilmots' squad, came on as a 57th-minute replacement for Romelu Lukaku and secured the 1-0 victory two minutes from time with a clean finish from Eden Hazard's cutback.

A first goal for Belgium was obviously a great moment for Origi, who impressed Wilmots with his pace and movement for Lille this season, but with only five club goals in his first full season of senior football and just a few minutes of international experience under his belt, he looks ill-equipped to lead a one-man strike force through the finals.

Belgium's impressive qualifying campaign helped see them installed as fifth favourites to win the World Cup although their prospects were dealt a severe blow when regular front man Christian Benteke ruptured an Achilles tendon in April, ruling him out of the tournament.

Lukaku became the automatic replacement but he is a different type of player and the sharpness and anticipation that made him look so dangerous for Everton in the English Premier League last season seems to disappear when he is called upon to lead the line internationally.

Lukaku was ineffective in Belgium's opening win over Algeria and replaced by Origi just before the hour, and the same thing happened on Sunday.

Lukaku looked very unimpressed with the decision and seemed to be letting Wilmots know it but he could have few complaints after another sluggish display marked by some poor first touches.

He must have felt somewhat embarrassed when his replacement combined well with Hazard to thump in the key goal and Wilmots was certainly pleased with the substitute.


"He's in a good space right now, he's 19 years old," said the coach after the win that took his side to six points at the top of Group H.

"It was a bit of a surprise since he was an unknown before I selected him. Now everyone knows who he is."

That is hardly going to help Origi but other than his goal, he showed little that is likely to strike fear into the heart of tournament defences further down the line.

Belgium look likely to top the group and might find themselves playing the United States, Ghana or Portugal for a place in the quarter-finals.

They certainly have enough midfield quality to create chances against those sides, with Hazard, Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne and Kevin Mirallas, all looking sharp on Sunday.

Hazard, however, was visibly frustrated that his build-up work had no end-product and the lack of a dominant forward was perhaps behind many of the players' decisions to pepper relatively tame long shots at Igor Akinfeev's goal rather than keep trying to work an opening.

Perhaps the goal will give Origi the confidence to step up a level, and also persuade Wilmots to start him in the final group game against South Korea on Thursday.

But even if he sparkles in that game, it is hard to see him, Lukaku or Belgium really troubling the game's superpowers in the latter stages. (Editing by Ken Ferris)

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