The 19-year-old was not even a regular starter for Lille last season but has capitalized on Christian Benteke's injury to make an indelible mark at his first World Cup.RIO DE JANEIRO — Four years ago, watching in awe as Spain passed its way to a first World Cup triumph in South Africa, 15-year-old Divock Origi could only dream about one day scoring a winning goal in the tournament himself.
Then a prospect at Lille's famed youth academy, Origi was light years away from such status but Sunday's dramatic late strike against Russia at the Maracana capped a meteoric 18-month rise to prominence.
Even the man himself has been surprised by his career trajectory. "I’m playing in my first World Cup and managed to score in my second game, so everything is going fast," he told Goal. "But that’s what makes it special. I always believed [in getting to Brazil] but in football you never know. I just tried to play my game and enjoy it."
Origi made an impact in his senior Lille debut in February 2013, coming on as a substitute to score a 75th-minute equalizer that salvaged a point for his side in a Ligue 1 clash with Troyes.
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Last season he grew in prominence at Stade Pierre-Mauroy but still made 20 of his 32 appearances in all competitions from the bench as Lille finished third in Ligue 1, securing Champions League soccer.
Involvement in Belgium's World Cup squad seemed no more than a pipe dream — Origi played no part in qualifying and did not have a senior cap to his name — but then Christian Benteke injured his Achilles tendon in April.
"I had a feeling I could be called up one month, maybe two months before the World Cup [in the wake of Benteke's injury]," he said. "I had a suspicion but I wasn’t sure. I knew I was one of the candidates [to replace him], and it was very special to be called up for the World Cup."
Teammate Toby Alderweireld freely acknowledges he knew almost nothing about Origi before Marc Wilmots announced his final roster for the tournament, but insists he has been impressed by what he has seen since.
"I didn’t see him until the squad was announced, but on the training pitch he’s shown a lot," the Atletico Madrid man said. "He’s a striker that has everything. He’s fast, strong, good technically. We don’t have to put too much pressure on him because he’s very young, but we are very happy to get him in the team."
Many more know about him now. Origi caught the eye as a second-half substitute against Algeria before his goal-scoring cameo against Russia and there are now suggestions he could start ahead of Romelu Lukaku in Belgium's final Group H match against South Korea, with the Chelsea youngster struggling to find his best form.
"That’s up to the coach, I don’t decide it," Alderweireld said. "But he’s shown he can make a difference for us. We can trust him and that’s very important."
Origi comes from proud soccer stock. Three of his uncles played with distinction in his native Kenya and his father, Mike, was a goalkeeper-turned-striker who won the Belgian Pro League with Genk.
"He was in the stadium and he’s been very important in my life," Origi said. "He guides me and it was very special to score with him here."
Moments after sending his team to the knockout stage of its first World Cup since 2002, such guidance was obvious as Origi remained admirably calm and grounded while addressing the media in near-perfect English.
"I don’t think I realize [the significance of the goal] yet but it will come," he said. "I’m very happy for me and for the team. To be able to score this goal, especially the winning goal, was very special for me. It’s a reward for my hard work at Lille."