Many happy returns for Belgium's birthday boy

“It’s the best birthday of my life,” a beaming Jorn Vancamp told FIFA.com. “Scoring on a day like today and getting through to the quarter-finals is amazing. I can’t put it into words.”

The Belgium midfielder had good reason to be elated, having marked his 17th birthday by scoring the goal that set his side on the road to victory over Korea Republic in the last 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015.

It was a goal set up by team-mate Dante Rigo, who was only too happy to relive it afterwards: “I saw him running into space so I lifted the ball over the defenders. He nipped on to it and slid it under the keeper. It’s my job to put balls into space like that. Before the game Jorn had told me to slip it in behind the defence when he asked for it, and that’s what I did.”

That early opening goal against what had been the tightest defence in the competition, one that conceded no goals at all in the group phase, opened the match up for the Belgians. With their opponents forced to come out and chase the game for the first time in the competition, Les Diablotins took full advantage of the space offered them, with Matthias Verreth settling the issue on the hour mark with a thumping drive into the top corner, a genuine contender for the goal of the tournament.

Scoring on a day like today and getting through to the quarter-finals is amazing.

“That was for him, for me, for my family, my friends and my girlfriend,” smiled Verreth. “That second goal gave us a bit of breathing space. We said before the game that we were going to give it our all for him. He scored and so did I, so we couldn’t ask for me. He’s a great kid and I love him to bits.”

The South Koreans had a chance to get back in the game just after Verreth’s wonder strike, when Laurent Lemoine picked up a red card in giving away a penalty. Goalkeeper Jens Teunckens had yet another present for birthday boy Vancamp up his sleeve, however, producing a superb stop to keep out Lee Seungwoo’s spot-kick.

“We said before we went out there that we wanted to play well for him and to do all we could to win on his birthday,” said Teunckens, who came up with another miraculous stop in the closing stages. “I’m always motivated though, and I was even more so today because of the errors I’d made against Ecuador. I wanted to make up for it today and I think I managed that.”

After a somewhat sluggish start to Chile 2015, Belgium’s young stars have lifted their performance levels at just the right time, prompting the question: did Vancamp’s birthday have anything to do with their return to form? Quashing that idea, the man himself said with a giggle: “We played Switzerland in a qualifier on the very same day last year and lost 1-0!”