Hazard spells WC danger for France

Afp, Saint Petersburg

10 July, 2018 12:00 AM printer

Hazard spells WC danger for France

This combination of pictures shows Belgium forward Eden Hazard, left, and France forward Olivier Giroud in action during the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018. Belgium will lock horns with France in the first semi-final of the FIFA World Cup 2018 at Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg tonight. – AFP FILE PHOTO

Eden Hazard is one of the French academy system’s finest exports in the past decade but he could be the man to end Didier Deschamps’s bid for World Cup glory.

Born to two footballing parents in the Belgian municipality of Braine-le-Comte, Hazard’s reputation spread across the border and saw him snapped up by Lille at the age of just 14.

Two years later Hazard made his professional debut in Ligue 1 and went on to become French football’s brightest talent, twice winning the league’s player of the year prize and leading Lille to a Ligue 1 and Cup double in 2010-11.

When a big-money move inevitably came, it was Chelsea who won the race in 2012 with a £32 million ($43 million) capture that now seems like a bargain.

In six seasons in England, Hazard has won two more league titles and won plenty of admirers. But some doubt whether he has the desire to back up his immense talent and challenge Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the world’s best player. So far in Russia, Hazard looks like a man on a mission to ensure Belgium’s so-called golden generation live up to their billing by bringing home the World Cup for the first time in the country’s history.

Handed the armband by Roberto Martinez despite Vincent Kompany’s return from injury, the Spaniard has drawn out Hazard’s leadership qualities. Hazard’s willingness and ability to carry the ball under pressure, jinking past helpless defenders, was in evidence as Belgium claimed their greatest-ever World Cup scalp by beating Brazil in the quarter-finals.

With his side clinging onto a 2-1 lead, Hazard repeatedly carried the ball forward in the dying minutes, drawing fouls to offer the Belgian backline some respite.

His leadership was also in evidence with a man-of-the-match performance, including a wonderful assist for Marouane Fellaini’s equaliser, as the Red Devils came from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in the last 16.

 


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