Origi, the name soon to be on European clubs' lips
RIO DE JANEIRO
DIVOCK Origi may have been a virtual unknown before the World Cup but "Baby Kluivert" is sure to be on many top European clubs' shopping list when he leaves Brazil.
The Belgian teenager was the hero of the hour in his team's 1-0 win over Russia on Sunday that propelled them into the last 16, with a group game to spare.
Twice, the 19-year-old has replaced Romelu Lukaku, 21, and brought energy and freshness to the Belgian forward line. "It hasn't sunk in what's happening to me, playing at a World Cup, scoring at the Maracana in front of my parents and my sister. It's crazy," said Origi after his match-winner against Russia.
His quick rise to prominence is not such a shock, though. Origi's father, a Kenyan called Mike, was a professional footballer who played with Genk in Belgium.
Origi himself was born in Belgium, in Ostend, where his family settled. Yet he moved to Lille at the age of 15 and it was there that he was given his first team debut at 17, scoring just six minutes after coming on as a substitute in a game against Troyes.
And he is proud to have come off a production line in Lille that has already provided two key elements in the Belgium national team, Eden Hazard, 23, and Kevin Mirallas, 26. "I'm proud to follow in the footsteps of players like Kevin and Eden," said Origi.
"And for the fans, I'm the new Belgian at Lille. But what Eden's done here (at Lille) has never been seen before, his is an incredible talent," he told Belgian weekly magazine Sport/Footmagazine.
Like Hazard, he seems to have a wise head on his young shoulders. And while Hazard is perhaps the benchmark, it is to former Dutch international Patrick Kluivert that Origi is compared to in Lille.
"Baby Kluivert is a nickname that Salomon Kalou gave me. It's obviously flattering but I'm not getting carried away," he said.
His chance in the limelight owes itself to the misfortune of Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke, 23, who ruptured his Achilles tendon a few weeks ago, ruling him out of the tournament.
"I hardly expected to be at the World Cup. I'm surprised because it's always good to be in a talented group like this, with great players," said Origi. "Now I believe that if you're here, it's because you deserve to be."
Belgium boss Marc Wilmots said: "I noticed at Lille that Divock always played well when he came on as a type of joker. He doesn't need much time to get into the rhythm and become effective."