- POSTED: 23 Jun 2014 02:10
- UPDATED: 23 Jun 2014 04:00
Teenage substitute Divock Origi scored a last gasp goal that gave Belgium a 1-0 victory over Russia and secured them a place in the World Cup last 16.
RIO DE JANEIRO: A late goal by teenage substitute Divock Origi was enough to secure Belgium a 1-0 victory over Russia and a place in the last 16 of the World Cup on Sunday.
Belgium, who have yet to lose a competitive match under coach Marc Wilmots, confirmed their tag as dark horses for the trophy while Russia, who are to host the 2018 finals, have just a point and face a huge task to qualify.
It leaves Russia's Italian coach Fabio Capello potentially facing an even earlier exit than the one four years ago when then in charge of England they went out in the second round.
The win left Belgium as clear Group H leaders with a maximum six points from two games after their 2-1 win over Algeria.
While Wilmots decision to take off out of sorts striker Romelu Lukaku and send on Origi proved an inspired one it also produced the sole sour note as the older striker looked to be furious as he took his place on the bench.
"I know people are not happy to be on the bench," said Wilmots, whose substitutions in the opening game also proved to be masterstrokes.
"But what is important is Belgium being able to rely upon totally devoted players when they are called upon.
"For the last 20 minutes I had people dying to be brought off the bench."
Origi, who plays for French First Division side Lille, for his part was overcome at scoring in such a sporting arena as the Maracana.
"It was very special to score here at the Maracana in the World Cup - and my family in the tribune too," said Origi.
"I hope I have paid back some of the confidence the coach has shown he has in me."
Capello, whose contract runs till the 2018 World Cup, had a penalty shout turned down in the first half which irked the Italian.
"But I'm not thinking of speaking about the referee," he said tartly afterwards.
Both sides made a bright start and the opening minutes saw chances at each end.
Victor Fayzulin swept into the box and fired in a low effort that Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois smartly stopped low to his right.
The Belgians responded as Dries Mertens pulled the midfield strings.
Mertens accelerated into the danger zone only to thump an effort wide of the right hand post of Igor Akinfeev, who coach Fabio Capello had kept faith with despite his blunder handing Korea their goal in the opening game.
Mertens drilled another effort wide as the Belgians, World Cup semi-finalists in 1986, turned the screw.
With the runners-up in the group likely to face Germany, assuming the three-time champions top their group, there was every incentive for both sides to chase the win.
Russia enjoyed a purple patch as the opening half came to an end, Fayzulin smacking a volley just over following a corner.
Denis Glushakov, booked for clattering Mertens, then crossed for Alexander Kokorin, who avoided being the meat in a Jan Vertonghen-Vincent Kompany sandwich but sent a free header off target.
Having endured a 56-minute virtual no-show from Lukaku, Wilmots -- once again urged to don a jacket by stewards to avoid his white shirt being taken for a Russian one -- withdrew him, sending on Origi.
Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard defended Lukaku, despite his moody reaction to being replaced, and said both he and Origi deserved credit.
"They both have different styles. Romelu didn't get a lot of space to work in but he played his part in tiring the Russian defense," he said.
Watching royals King Philippe and Queen Mathilde saw the Belgians survive a huge let off with 12 minutes remaining when Andrey Eshchenko found space but dragged a shot just wide.
In a frantic finale another Belgian substitute Kevin Mirallas' low free kick bounced off the base of the post before Capello finally gave playmaker Alan Dzagoev, whom he had controversially left on the bench, his chance with nine minutes left.
But almost as soon as he got into the action, Origi struck, leaving Capello and his team on the brink of going home early.