"I'm calm by nature and I owe that to my dad," explained Divock Origi, just moments after his late goal sealed a 1-0 win for Belgium against Russia. "I was able to come on to the pitch at the Maracana when the tension was at its peak and make the difference. I'm sure I'll continue to grow and improve thanks to that calmness and score more goals just as important as that one."
The 19-year-old certainly has time on his side, having not just sent Les Diables Rouges into the last 16 but also made history as his country's youngest ever FIFA World Cup™ scorer. It was a memorable strike, and one that devastated Russia's youthful team, playing "the match of our lives" according to Aleksei Kozloz.
Origi, meanwhile, was able to savour notching the third goal scored by a Belgium substitute at Brazil 2014, after Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens did the honours against Algeria. It has been an incredible few weeks for the Lille forward, who originally expected to be watching the World Cup on television, until Christian Benteke fell out of the reckoning due to injury. Seeking a replacement, Marc Wilmots took something of a gamble when he called up a youngster with just one full season under his belt, but he recalled that Origi had struck shortly after coming off the bench on his Lille debut.
Overall, Belgium owed their victory in Brazil's most hallowed stadium to the same cocktail of qualities they had served up against Algeria: a blend of talented players willing to work for the team and a sprinkling of mental and physical fortitude. Those ingredients would nonetheless be worthless without a solid and intelligent tactical mould set in place by their coach - and Wilmots once again deserved plaudits. "We showed great togetherness and mental strength in a tough game, but above all you have to look at the extent to which we were in good hands," said Origi, wearing a broad grin as he cited the man whose full faith he has earned.
Daniel Van Buyten echoed those thoughts, and added words of praise for the attitude of Belgium's decisive substitutes, especially given their age. "The frustration of players who don't start games is obvious, but in a tournament like this your bench is one of the keys to success," he said. "It's such a pleasure to see a youngster like Divock translate that into performance."
The senior figure in the Belgium squad at 36, not least thanks to his experiences at Korea/Japan 2002, 'Big Dan' stressed too that Russia needed to win this game - and their opponents knew it. "They were forced to take risks at the end. For us, it was a case of above all keeping our organisation by staying solid at the back."
Inspiring fearThat may help explain why Belgium's second outing in Group H so closely resembled their first. As against Algeria, Les Diables Rouges looked for long periods to be mired in an evenly fought contest, but appearances can often be deceptive. Instead, Wilmots' side were simply waiting for their rivals to wilt before delivering the decisive late blows. "We waited patiently for Russia's physical levels to drop little by little, and then we looked to make the difference," explained Kevin de Bruyne.
Having kicked off with three points against Les Fennecs, Belgium also went into the encounter high on belief, and knowing a stalemate would not have been a disastrous result. "A 0-0 draw would have suited us, but we hoped to be able to cause them trouble thanks to our physical freshness at the end," added Van Buyten. "We had confidence in our forwards and that's how it turned out once again."
For his part, Eden Hazard feels his side can improve even further. "Our use of the ball when we had possession was a bit hesitant," said the gifted schemer, who set up Origi's winner. "We can do a lot better by working on that aspect."
Hazard and Co have already earned plenty of respect for starting with a pair of wins, but the Chelsea man now wants them to leave potential opponents quaking in their boots. "We intend to carry on winning. Each time, we inspire more fear. That's ideal in terms of getting the teams we meet to come at us with their heads as low as possible."
Spoken like a true diable.