Lille striker Divock Origi came off the bench to help his Belgian teammates reach the last 16 of the World Cup, setting up the goal that defeated South Korea 1-0 in a hard fought victory.
The 19-year-old, who has been linked with a move this summer to Liverpool and Tottenham, has been one of Belgium’s best players despite coming off the bench for each of the three group games.
Belgium have struggled to live up to their pre-tournament title of the dark horses, scraping past South Korea, Russia and Algeria by winning 1-0 in all three games. They finish the group top, with nine points but haven’t looked as convincing as many pundits have described them to be before the tournament started.
Origi, who scored his first international goal to secure victory against the Russians, made an instant impact when he came off the bench with 30 minutes left to play replacing Napoli’s Dries Mertens. His pace and strength created fresh problems for the tiring Korean defence.
The Lille forward had a hand in the goal too. His shot from just outside the box was parried away by South Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu, falling into the path of Tottenham’s defender Jan Vertonghen who slotted the ball past the failing keeper.
Origi provided a outlet for the Belgians, something that they had struggled without. Once again, the 19-year-old impressed and his performance has led to some calling for the youngster to start their next match.
The Belgians had to play the whole of the second half after Porto’s Steven Defour was shown a straight red card for a stamp on Kim Shin-wook. It means that he will miss the last-16 tie against the USA on Tuesday.
In the other game in the group, Algeria drew 1-1 with Russia, sending the Africans through to the last 16 for the first time in their history.
Valenciennes defender Carl Medjani and Aissa Mandi of Reims both played for the Desert Foxes as they held on to progress. Islam Slimani equalized on the hour mark to cancel out Aleksandr Kokorin headed goal which was scored with the first five minutes.
There was some controversy with the Algerian goal, which came from a free kick. Before the ball was played, replays show the Igor Akinfeev was a victim of laser beams being shone from the crowd directly into his face. He was unable to beat Slimani to the cross who headed the Algerians into the last 16 where they will face Germany.
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