Could this be Eden Hazard's World Cup?

Could this be Eden Hazard's World Cup?

Belgium's attacking midfield maestro has been in fine form since Roberto Martinez named his squad.

Chris Lincoln

His club side may have endured a below-par domestic campaign but Chelsea and Belgium's Eden Hazard travels to Russia full of confidence. After winning and scoring the deciding penalty in the FA Cup final, the 27-year old has been pivotal in almost all of Belgium's seven goals in their last two friendlies.

Terrorising defences across the globe

Comfortable victories over Costa Rica and a Mohamed Salah-deprived Egypt may not be too much of a surprise but the manner in which Belgium disposed of the two World Cup sides could raise a few eyebrows.

No European side scored more goals in qualification than Belgium and the Red Devils have continued their offensive attitude during the World Cup warm-up games. After a slight blip against Portugal when failing to score resulted in a 0-0 draw, Belgium dominated possession and struck over 40 shots in their last two fixtures, scoring seven in the process.

Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens have been particularly effective in both of those matches but their creative displays have been somewhat overshadowed by the form of Hazard. Belgium's number ten terrorised both the Costa Ricans and Egyptians, running at the heart of the defences with pace, power, trickery and confidence.


Hazard - Lukaku partnership could be key

Hazard scored two and played a part in four more goals despite playing little over 100 minutes in both games combined. His link-up play with Romelu Lukaku appears especially decisive with the striker's strength and hold-up play allowing Hazard to run past him or Belgium's all-time top goalscorer able to manufacture the end product from Hazard's thoughtful football in the final third.

Such performances will be causing concern for Group G rivals England, Tunisia and Panama. The former appear to be favourites to progress alongside Belgium but Hazard's pace and poise will be giving English defenders nightmares...Phil Jones will not want to be left treading water chasing Hazard again as he did before giving away the decisive penalty in the FA Cup final.

Belgium are widely considered as dark horses in the tournament, particularly with minimal World Cup pedigree after failing to live up to expectations four years ago. Many predictions see their stumbling block appearing in the quarter-finals when they could face Germany or Brazil.

Yet Hazard's form could prove pivotal with both defences, particularly Brazil's, susceptible to showing signs of weakness. In fact, is there any defence in the competition that could cope with Hazard, De Bruyne, Mertens and Lukaku at the top of their game? With more experience under their belts than the youthful squad that travelled to Brazil in 2014, this could be an extremely dangerous outfit.

Another solid domestic campaign

Hazard's performances going into the competition come as no surprise. Chelsea failed to finish in the top four this season but only a quartet of Premier League players produced more key passes than the of which being De Bruyne. Nobody dribbled more in this campaign and only four players drew more fouls. Hazard also finished in the top ten Premier League goalscorers with Raheem Sterling the only midfielder to score more.

Hazard has the ability to get the best out of those around him, particularly Lukaku. Belgium's defensive prowess may be questioned at times but one thing is for certain - they will play exciting football and Hazard will be at the centre of everything positive in their play. He could just prove the difference between another 'good effort' by Belgium and World Cup glory. 

At 27 and revelling in the peak of his career, this is his moment.


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