Football

Step up, Hazard

Wilmots says it's time for under-performing playmaker to shine against Argentina

TALENT: Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard has six goals and 49 international caps, but has yet to set the World Cup alight. PHOTO: AFP

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has taken Eden Hazard aside to discuss how to get the best from the gifted, but under-performing, midfielder for tonight's quarter-final against Argentina.

The 23-year-old Chelsea player undoubtedly has the talent, but has yet to set the World Cup Finals in Brazil alight as Belgium eased through Group H before dispatching the United States in a tight last-16 game.

Wilmots told a news conference this morning (Singapore time), ahead of the Argentina match that he was pleased with Hazard's performances in an attacking position on the left, his partnership with fullback Jan Vertonghen, as well as his help in tracking back.

"I spoke to him last night about how he can improve and be even more effective; he is eager to learn to make progress with the team," said Wilmots.

"I don't think he is lacking much. He has been working on defence for the last 12 to 18 months.

IMPROVED

"He is on the left with Jan (Vertonghen), and we have improved a lot on this particular side.

"What exactly we discussed will remain between us but, hopefully, we will see it on the pitch tomorrow."

Hazard made his Belgium debut in 2008 when he was 17, and has made 49 appearances in total, scoring six goals.

He seemed to struggle with the weight of expectation in his early international career, which was also hampered when he fell out with former coach Georges Leekens.

Under Wilmots' guidance, however, he has started to fulfil his obvious potential, and netted a superb goal against Macedonia in qualifying for Brazil.

Tonight's game against Argentina, who eliminated Belgium in the semi-finals in 1986 - the furthest the Europeans have gone in the tournament - is a chance for Hazard to shine on the biggest stage.

Wilmots said that Vertonghen and fellow defender Toby Alderweireld, as well as midfielder Mousa Dembele, were carrying minor injuries, but he was confident they would be fit to face the South Americans. 
- Reuters.

World Cup