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Belgium expects Eden: ‘I don’t think I have seen him train and play this amazing’

Thibaut Courtois and Roberto Martínez heap praise on Eden Hazard’s preparation.

Belgium v Saudi Arabia - International Friendly Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Last week Eden Hazard said he expected greatness from Belgium. On Sunday his peers said they’re expecting greatness from him.

Belgium’s captain leads his team against Panama in steamy Sochi on Monday, bathed in Black Sea heat and showered with praise as he leads his nation’s golden generation in what may become their defining World Cup. Thibaut Courtois says his captain, teammate, and friend has never been readier for the challenge.

“I have known Eden for so many years but I don’t think I have seen him train and play this amazing as in these last three weeks and these last games.”

“I am very pleased and I hope he can show that at the tournament but we don’t just need him; we also need Romelu [Lukaku], Kevin [de Bruyne], who is playing well at City, and other players too. If we want to go far, we will need all them at their best – and I feel that we are playing well.”

-Thibaut Courtois; source: Guardian

Hazard is 27 years old. By the time football gathers itself for the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022, he’ll be 31. He’ll probably still be in the Belgium squad, but he probably won’t be the same player, certainly no longer at the pinnacle of his physical ability.

So this is probably his last chance to show his best side on the global stage. He talked about this paradigm as it relates to his club career several times this seaosn, but it applies just the same to the world stage, especially as far as the World Cup itself goes. This could very well be Eden Hazard’s World Cup, especially as most other favorites are off to underwhelming starts.

His manager, Roberto Martinez, thinks it’s Eden’s time as well.

“Eden’s end to the season, with him winning a trophy and the way he played at Wembley in the [FA Cup] semi-final and final has prepared him perfectly for the World Cup. He looks fresh, mentally ready, and the relationship he has with the players around him here allows his influence on the game to be on a great scale. He has looked very sharp in the last two friendlies, he has that mentality from the end of the season and we’re very happy with his preparation.”

“Eden is in a great moment of his career. He is a captain, he’s at a good age, he has leadership. He never has any problem showing for the ball and one on one he is as good as anyone in the world. He has focus, he’s scoring goals. But if we think that we’re going to win games with one, two or three players, we’re mistaken. We are relying on every player.”

-Roberto Martínez; Source: The Guardian

Peak Eden Hazard could be one of the most exciting things to watch in this Cup, which has already produced unexpected delights in the first round of matches. He did not score in 2014, his first World Cup, collecting two assists in four starts as Belgium lost in the quarterfinals to eventual finalists Argentina. Monday would be a fine time to break his duck.

Belgium play at 4pm BST (11am EDT, 8:30pm IST) and are immediately followed by England’s opener against Tunisia. A nail-biting end to the day!

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