Belgium and their Golden Generation struggled a bit against mighty Panama for about 45 minutes in their first game at the 2018 World Cup, before Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku and the rest kicked it into higher gear and dispatched the lowest ranked team in the group 3-0. The scoreline didn’t do enough to dissuade the notion that the Red Devils will need to do better in their upcoming games, but that actually should serve them well as they look to live up to expectations. No need to peak early.
After the Panama game, Belgium captain Eden Hazard had a few strong comments about the team’s performance, and specifically about former Chelsea teammate Romelu Lukaku’s 7-touch effort in the first half.
“At half-time, I told him we needed him. He’d been hiding out a bit up front. It’s not easy playing with a man missing. But once he got in there, involved in the game, like magic, he scores two. I hope he understands now.”
-Eden Hazard; source: Independent
Lukaku’s second-half brace (the second of which was set up by Hazard), combined with Mertens’ excellent volley meant that of all the favorites for the trophy, Belgium were the only ones to avoid dropping points (such as Brazil, Germany, Argentina, or Spain) or eking out narrow wins (France and England). So without that on-pitch drama, Hazard’s comments about Lukaku have taken center stage as far as the coverage has been concerned.
But yesterday, speaking to reporters from both Belgium and England, Hazard doubled down on his authority as captain, and like Roberto Martinez said earlier, rubbished any ideas of actual discord. There’s nothing to regret. These things happen in professional sports, but all’s well that ends well.
“As the captain, even if I am not the captain I can talk, on the pitch I try to give my best, if I can help players to be better - I will.”
”I just told Romelu [Lukaku] if we want to win the game we need him, not just as a scorer to score goals, but we want him to be involved in the build-up. We just talked normally and we won the game in the end so it was fine.”
-Eden Hazard; source: Sky
Eden Hazard has always been a captain to lead by example. Now he’s leading by his words, too. And that sort of leadership can only bode well for Belgium, and Chelsea as well moving forward.
Hazard & Co take on Tunisia on Saturday before finishing up group play against England next