RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Divock Origi sent Belgium into the last 16 of the World Cup when the teenager struck an 88th minute winner to secure a 1-0 victory against Russia in a largely lifeless Group H match at the Maracana on Sunday.
The striker rifled in following great work from Eden Hazard just minutes after Kevin Mirallas crashed a free kick against the base of the Russian post to give Belgium six points from two games.
“It was not an easy match but I think we deserved to win it,” said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots.
“He’s in a good space right now, he’s 19-years-old,” the coach added of his matchwinner.
“It was a bit of a surprise since he was an unknown before I selected him. Now everyone knows who he is.”
Origi is the first teenager to score in the World Cup since Argentina’s Lionel Messi in 2006 and is the youngest to find the net at these finals.
“It was an important goal but I thought we created it as a team. I thought we showed today that we are mentally strong,” Origi said, heaping praise on Hazard for creating the opportunity.
“I hung back and then he passed it to me. People will say it wasn’t easy to convert but the work he did shows he is a great player.”
Russia have one point with South Korea and Algeria meeting in the other Group H match in Porto Alegre later on Sunday.
“The match was a really good game, fast, strong. I‘m disappointed for the players because they played a really good game,” said Russia coach Fabio Capello, appearing to contradict the feelings of most of the 73,000 crowd who regularly booed a largely lethargic encounter.
Despite a few flashes of inspiration from Belgium’s right-winger Dries Martens in the first half and their attacking finish at the end, the match never rose above the forgettable.
Mertens did his best to spark Belgium into life before the break giving left back Dmitry Kombarov a torrid time, but although he was a constant threat, none of his work produced a goal.
He fired into the side netting and had another effort across the face of goal before the break as Belgium sought the victory that would put them into the knockout stages.
Russia had what appeared to be a decent penalty claim turned down when Toby Alderweireld appeared to catch Maksim Kanunnikov just inside the area and missed a great chance just before halftime when Alexander Kokorin miscued his header wide.
Belgium skipper Vincent Kompany recovered from a groin strain to take part and made some typically robust defensive tackles, but his left-back partner Thomas Vermaelen injured his knee in the warm-up and although he started the game he was replaced by Jan Vertonghen midway through the first half.
Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Justin Palmer