Eden Hazard ended the 2013/14 campaign having won two individual accolades, and he aims for more success when Belgium take part in the World Cup which kicks off tomorrow…
Hazard is hopeful Belgium can make a positive impact in Brazil, in their first appearance at a major tournament since 2002.
Our prodigious winger is just one member of a super-talented Red Devils squad that looks capable of reaching the latter stages of the competition. Along with our own Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois, Hazard will be joined by the likes of Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas at this summer’s showpiece.
However despite the plethora of big names scattered throughout, it will still be almost every player’s debut at a senior international tournament. The bookmakers list Belgium as fifth favourites to lift the trophy in Brazil. Many consider them the competition’s dark horses. How does Hazard see it panning out?
‘I don’t think we are a dark horse,’ he smiles. ‘We are young and we don’t have a lot of experience but we are a very good team. Me and a lot of the players are going to the World Cup for the first time, just [Daniel] Van Buyten played one time in the World Cup.
‘It will be a good experience for the young players in Belgium. Let’s see how many games we can win.’
The draw looks reasonably favourable. The Belgians are in Group H alongside Russia, Algeria and South Korea, and though Hazard knows it is unlikely to be smooth sailing, he is hopeful of progression.
‘It’s not an easy group but it’s not the most difficult,’ he considers. ‘We can do it if we take those games seriously and if we are concentrated. After that we would probably play Germany or Portugal I think. They will be more difficult, but not impossible.’
Hazard ended his second season at Chelsea with the club’s Player of the Year award, recognition for an outstanding campaign in which he netted 17 goals and provided 13 assists.
It’s the kind of form he’ll be hoping to carry into his first international tournament at senior level. Hazard did appear for a young Red Devils side at the 2007 Under-17 World Cup in South Korea but these are very different times for the 23-year-old.
‘When I was younger I played at a World Cup and it was a good experience, but this will be another level, playing for the shirt and for the whole country. It’s been a good year for me at Chelsea, and for Belgium as well. Now I just hope we can go to the semi-finals or the final at the World Cup.’