Football

Martinez plays down Hazard’s injury scare

Belgium coach says skipper's dead leg against Costa Rica is 'nothing to worry about'

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez says there is "nothing to worry about" regarding playmaker Eden Hazard's fitness, after the Belgium skipper limped out of their final World Cup warm-up match against Costa Rica.

Hazard was substituted with a dead leg in the 70th minute of Belgium's 4-1 win in Brussels yesterday morning (Singapore time), but Martinez expects his captain to be fit for their World Cup opener against Panama next Monday.

"Eden is okay, he had a little trouble, but it's nothing to worry about," the Spaniard said.

"I really enjoyed his performance. He was sharp and strong, he was majestic.

"At the end, he just came off because he had a little bit of a dead leg, a little bit of a knock on his leg."

Hazard was in blistering form as Belgium wrapped up their World Cup preparations with a convincing win.

Romelu Lukaku scored a double, while Dries Mertens and Michy Batshuayi were also on target, after the visitors had taken a surprise 1-0 lead.

Hazard constantly propelled the Belgian side towards the 16-yard box and was instrumental in all of the hosts' goals.

Hazard, Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne will be hoping for redemption during the June 14-July 15 tournament in Russia, after quarter-final exits at both the last World Cup in Brazil and Euro 2016 in France.

WORLD CUP OPENER

Belgium start their World Cup campaign against Panama in Sochi before facing Tunisia and England in Group G.

The hosts piled on the pressure from the start but failed to capitalise on their early chances. Their defence, missing injured veteran Vincent Kompany, looked shaky on the rare occasions it was tested.

Much against the run of play, Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz put the visitors ahead in the 24th minute after calmly latching on to Jan Vertonghen's poorly cleared header.

That spurred the Belgians into action as Mertens equalised seven minutes later after receiving a neat pass from Hazard.

Just before half-time, Belgium's top scorer Lukaku put his side in the lead via a cross from Mertens.

Martinez was encouraged to see how his team reacted after going a goal down.

"I get the feeling our team wants to face adversity together. We are ready, ready for the World Cup," he said.

Costa Rica made five changes to the side that were beaten 2-0 by England last Thursday, but that made little difference as another goal by Lukaku and one from Batshuayi sealed their fate.- REUTERS

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