Chelsea’s Belgians have the chance to join our Brazilians and Andre Schurrle in the World Cup quarter-finals by beating the United States when the teams meet tonight (Tuesday).
The match in Salvador will bring the Round of 16 to a close and Hazard is still targeting an all-round improvement in his personal displays, despite being part of a Belgium side which topped their group with three wins.
‘I think that each match I’ve given my maximum,’ the Chelsea Player of the Year said in the run-up to his first World Cup knockout challenge.
‘Since the start of the World Cup I haven’t had a great match with good moves, so I hope I can do that and have a good match. I would really like it if I can get around the pitch more and see more of the ball – and make a difference, basically.’
All the Last 16 games so far have been well-balanced contests, with two decided by penalty shoot-outs. Should that be repeated tonight then Hazard, who has been so impressive with spot-kicks for Chelsea, is in line to take one.
‘I hope it doesn’t happen, because we’ll all feel the pressure. But if we have to take them, I prefer to go last,’ Hazard revealed.
Of the four countries with Chelsea players that made the knockout stage, only Nigeria haven’t progressed further to the quarter-finals.
John Mikel Obi, who played his best game of the tournament in yesterday’s match, only to be eliminated by two late France goals, was not too downcast by the exit of the African champions.
‘We’ve had a great tournament and today we showed the whole world just what we’re capable of, even when up against a great team,’ he said.
‘We played really well from the start, right up until we conceded the opening goal. From that moment on, I’ll admit that we let our heads drop a bit. We couldn’t drag ourselves back into it, but none of that should take the shine off our performance.
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‘We were very well-organised. We knew exactly what we needed to do in defence against a strong team like France and, on top of that, whenever we had the ball we weren’t afraid to attack. We even had good chances to go in front. We got so much right but mistakes do happen. We need to forget it and move on.’