Hazard Still Guilty Of Flattering To Deceive

Belgium continued their rather haphazard route through the competition with extra-time victory over USA, but Eden Hazard continues to be slightly uninspiring...

Last Updated: 02/07/14 at 08:48 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Chambers' Poise Impresses Again

10 comments

It was a gritty result for Arsenal on a difficult night in Istanbul. Olivier Giroud struggled, but Calum Chambers again looked assured on a higher stage...

Time To Burst The ITK Bubble

17 comments

As 'ITK' culture becomes an increasingly irritating sideshow, Daniel Storey bemoans a majority that is prepared to accept a constant shower of bulls**t...

All Articles

Such was the clamour over Belgium's 'golden generation' in the build-up to this tournament, it became difficult to make a subjective and unbiased estimation of exactly what we could, or should, expect from Marc Wilmots' side.

Due to the pant-wetting over the country's footballing rise (along with Borussia Dortmund they instigated the football 'hipster' renaissance), Belgium were backed into the position of fifth favourites despite having failed to qualify for five consecutive major tournaments following the 2002 World Cup. That seemed wildly optimistic.

In truth, Belgium have been largely uninspiring in Brazil. They incredibly managed to take nine points from their three group games despite leading for a total of just 24 minutes, less than half the figure of eliminated Russia. However, he who laughs, laughs longest, and Belgium will take their place in the quarter-finals alongside the other seven group winners. It is still four wins from four.

Having been given the kindest of group stage draws, there was hope that Belgium could ease their way into the tournament after an almost impeccable qualification record. In contrast to the above statistic, Belgium trailed for just 39 minutes (away in Croatia) throughout their entire qualification campaign to reach Brazil. Instead, there has been a distinct lethargy to all that the Belgians have attempted, particularly in an attacking sense, as Wilmots has rather been let down by some of his star players. Les Diables have relied on substitutes for three of their four goals, with defender Jan Vertonghen scoring the other.

It may sound harsh given their lack of experience on this particular stage but, given that Belgium's five midfielders have moved for a combined £118million in the last two years, and 13 of Belgium's squad played in the Champions League last season, should we have expected more? These are no plucky underdogs, and the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Dries Mertens, Axel Witsel and Romelu Lukaku have almost entirely flattered to deceive.

Against USA, the pattern from the group stage continued. Belgium have a squad with far greater ability than their opposition, and yet scraped through. Had Chris Wondolowski been more measured when presented with a last-minute chance in normal time (and the assistant referee less flag-happy), it could have been an evening with an entirely different ending. Even when Belgium looked to have gained some breathing space in extra-time, the cliché of the Hollywood sports film threatened to create a 2014 soccer version of Mighty Ducks. It has been a glorious fortnight for football in America, and they signed off from the tournament in memorable fashion.

At the epicentre of such Belgian disappointment sits Eden Hazard. In a tournament dominated by individuals acting as the catalyst for their team's success (Lionel Messi, Neymar, James Rodriguez), this was the opportunity for Hazard to shake off a season tinged with discontent at Stamford Bridge. It remains a chance yet to be seized.

Jose Mourinho criticised Hazard in May for his apparent lack of work rate, an evident bugbear of the Portuguese coach. "He's not the kind of player ready to sacrifice himself 100 per cent for the team and his mates. I'm not happy."

To make matters worse, those stinging words were mirrored before this tournament by his international manager. "He [Hazard] can do a lot for us, everyone knows that. Now I'm waiting to see it. I'm waiting for him to take hold of a match and impose himself, even if he's still young to be doing that."

Both men are right to increase their demands of Hazard. Although he has been excellent in patches since his £32m move from Lille, this is a player that is no longer merely a prospect in football terms. He will turn 24 in January, and must now start producing on a continued basis.

That may sound incredibly unforgiving, but Hazard in only judged by the standards that he has set himself. Speaking before the match on Tuesday, the player admitted wishing to emulate the best. "I have looked at what the other stars have done and try to take as much inspiration from them as possible.Have I been impressed by Lionel Messi, Neymar and James Rodriguez? Of course I have. I know you will see the best Eden."

It is not the first time Hazard has mentioned being considered as the best player in the world. "I realise that I can compete with Messi and Ronaldo in the near future, if I put in some more effort." There's that issue of work rate, again.

Against USA, Hazard was continuously criticised for his lack of assistance for Jan Vertonghen at full-back. American substitute DeAndre Yedlin was praised for his attacking endeavour, but his task was made easier by Hazard's constant refusal to track back.

Such a lack of determination will have infuriated his manager, especially as the one time he noticeably ran alongside, pressurised and eventually tackled his man, a chance for the sprightly Divock Origi was immediately created.

To be spoken of in the same breath as the best, Hazard now needs to be grabbing not just matches but entire competitions by the scruff of the neck. Ronaldo's 17 goals helped Real Madrid finally achieve La Decima, whilst Messi has been at the heart of all that Argentina have accomplished during this World Cup. The same cannot be said of Belgium's no. 10, and a quarter-final tie with Argentina provides the ideal opportunity for part redemption.

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter

A counter argument is you will please, Hazard's (and Origi's) running tired the opposition allowing Lukaku to take advantage when he came on fresh and played a part in helping the goals. Hazard was man of the match against Russia, 2 assists from 4 games isn't terrible either. He's not alone in this tournament from having patchy form, but he's doing better than any english player by virtue of still being there
- shea666

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

G

reat article. Hits the nail on the head. Encapsulates why I don't read tabloid newspapers anymore. The only thing worse is the 'told you so first' headline when they get lucky.

ianonabeach
Time To Burst The ITK Bubble

F

amous. If that can be achieved whilst sitting in your pants and without any degree of hard work, all the better. I have no desire to be famous, but the rest of that line suits me just fine. Great article by the way, well worth the wait.

hunter sanchez
Time To Burst The ITK Bubble

T

here seems to be little focus on the performance of Besiktas. They played very well and stopped Arsenal from playing. Credit has to go to their manager. As much as Arsenal didn't play too well, we kept a clean sheet, but the home side made it very difficult.

Geddy76
Chambers' Poise Impresses Again

Latest Photos

Footer 365

La Liga: Luka Modric signs new Real Madrid contract to stay until 2018

Real Madrid's Croatian playmaker Luka Modric has signed a new four-year contract with the Spanish giants.

Premier League: Hull midfielder Robert Snodgrass to miss six months with knee injury

Hull's summer signing Robert Snodgrass will be out for six months after dislocating a kneecap at the weekend.

Premier League: Vincent Kompany waiting to see how Liverpool cope with increased demands

Vincent Kompany feels Liverpool will find the Premier League 'a different competition' once the Champions League starts.

Mail Box

Mailbox: Feeling Sorry For Poor TC23

If there's one loser in all the machinations at Man United, it's poor TC23. We have mercifully few mails on United, but lots on Arsenal and in particular Olivier Giroud...

Dear Brendan, Please Sign Di Maria

That's the request to Brendan Rodgers in the mailbox, and not just because it would annoy Man United fans. Plus, more thoughts on why Arsenal didn't want Cescy back...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property