When Divorck Origi set foot in Brazil on June 10 with the Belgium national team, the teenager was nothing more than a youngster hoping for an opportunity on the fringes of a star-studded squad.
Injury to Christian Benteke, the team’s first choice striker, meant Romelo Lukaku and Dries Mertens would rise in the pecking order of coach Marc Wilmots.
Three games into the World Cup, Origi has established himself as a central figure in Belgium’s squad with inspiring cameo roles.
When Belgium play USA today in Salvador, Origi will be a player coach Jurgen Klinsmann has taken note of in his match notes.
In all three group matches, the forward of Kenyan descent – his father is ex-Harambee Stars striker Mike Okoth –impressed as a substitute.
He replaced Lukaku on the hour when Belgium beat Algeria in their opening match of the group.
Wilmots again introduced him for Lukaku just under the hour in the game against Russia and he responded by striking a late winner.
In the final group game against South Korea, Origi came in for Mertens with half an hour left on the clock to set up Jan Vertonghen’s late goal that won the match.
Origi’s tale in Brazil is not going unnoticed. Interest for his services has risen and English clubs are said to be talking to French club Lille over his availability.
In Kenya, he is being celebrated as the first player of Kenyan origin to score at a Fifa World Cup.
In Belgium, he is seen as the present and future of the national team’s golden generation alongside Eden Hazard.
Kenya’s loss is Belgium’s gain. Origi can poach from inside, strike the ball from afar and is a willing runner. Most importantly, he is a 19-year-old whose potential is limitless.
US will take note of him. Klinsmann is such an experienced coach to avoid such a detail. Wilmots has played his card smartly with Origi. By bringing him on 15 minutes after the restart, he has thrown his ace into the fray against tiring opponents with perhaps little or no homework on Origi.
Talent vs experience
It is most likely that Wilmots will keep his youngster on the bench.
Having shown he can change games either as a scorer or creator, the Belgian coach will be happy to have him on the sidelines.
Before yesterday’s two matches, two of the first four knockout matches were decided by post-match penalties.
Belgium and USA look like sides that will cancel out one another and extra time is a possibility, the reason why Origi can be a perfect trump card as a substitute.
It is 12 years since the US played in a World Cup quarter final but with experienced talisman Clint Dempsey in fine form, they are a side high on a mission.
The Americans boast the greater World Cup experience but Belgium have superior individual talent.
It should be another intriguing World Cup second round showdown for the neutrals, another chance for Origi to impress on the world stage.
Argentina vs Switzerland 7pm
Belgium vs USA 11pm