Eden Hazard believes there is more to come from Belgium as they look to build on Tuesday’s 2-1 World Cup win against Algeria.
Marc Wilmots’ side came from behind to get their Group H campaign off to a winning start, with second-half goals from Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens securing the three points.
Hazard was relatively quiet by his own high standards, with Belgium struggling collectively, particularly in the first half, to get behind the Algeria defence. He did, however, play a pivotal role in the winning goal, advancing from deep and slipping a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of Mertens to fire home.
‘I didn’t find it easy,’ said the Chelsea Player of the Year. ‘It was difficult for all the midfielders and forwards, especially in the first half, to find the space to show what we can do. But when Marouane scored the equaliser, the game opened up more and we were able to show a little more of what we can bring as individuals and as a team. Hopefully you will see more of that kind of football from us in the games ahead.
‘I can definitely play better and we can also play better as a group. But this was just a start for us, and we have won our first game, which we always felt would be the most important one. There’s not much more we could ask. You know at a tournament like this that if you win the first game, you have a great chance of going through. Now we are in a good position at the top of the group and we want to do everything we can to stay there.’
With Belgium making their first appearance at a World Cup finals since 2002, Hazard and his team-mates aren’t looking too far ahead, but their opening-game victory has given them the perfect platform from which to build.
‘This is all new for us, so taking one game at a time is all we can do,’ he said. ‘With Belgium, I think it’s tough for anyone to make predictions,’ he told FIFA.com. ‘We have a good team, that’s clear. We are talented and we are young. But this is our first experience of the World Cup and who knows how far we can go? We don’t know and neither does anyone else.
‘All I can say is that we try every day to improve and to make our country proud, and that’s what we will do again against Russia. They are a strong team and it will be another really big test for us. But winning our first match has given us confidence. I think we will go out there feeling good and relaxed. And if we play to our best, I think the fans here will enjoy watching us.’
In the build-up to the Algeria game, Wilmots insisted Hazard possessed all the attributes to become one of the top five players in the world. The 23-year-old was surprised to hear of his manager’s comments, and feels there are elements of his game he needs to improve in order to take his performances on to another level.
‘Seriously? He said that?’ said Hazard. ‘Well, I never like to talk about myself in that way because, to be honest, I don’t think I deserve it at the moment. To be thought of as one of the best five in the world, I would need to score more goals for a start. I would really need to score almost every game because that is what the best players in the world – like Messi and Ronaldo – do every season.
‘These are the guys everyone else has to aim for. It’s nice of the coach to say such things, but I wouldn’t say the same.’