FIFA World Cup 2018: The tale of Hazard

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 09 July 2018, 10:02 PM
FIFA World Cup 2018: The tale of Hazard (Photo: Twitter)
FIFA World Cup 2018: The tale of Hazard (Photo: Twitter)

Belgium skipper Eden Hazard is one of the French youth system's finest exports in the past decade but he could be the danger man to put an end to Didier Deschamps's World Cup campaign.

Born in a footballing family in the Belgian municipality of Braine-le-Comte, Hazard's reputation spread across the border and French club Lille signed him at the age of just 14.

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

With a big-money move, Chelsea signed him in 2012 for a price of USD 43 million and well that seems like a bargain now. 

In six seasons in England, Hazard has won two Premier League titles and won plenty of admirers. But some doubt whether he has the desire to back up his talent and challenge the legacy of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the world's best player.

In the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, Hazard looks like a man on a mission to ensure that Belgium's golden generation live up to their hype by winning their first World Cup ever.

Given the captain's armband by coach Roberto Martinez despite a natural leader in Vincent Kompany in the team, the Spaniard has drawn out Hazard's leadership qualities.

"I think Eden is in a great moment of his career," Martinez said before the tournament.

"Look at his age, he is the captain, in terms of leadership he never finds it difficult to show for the ball."

Hazard's willingness and ability to carry the ball under pressure, skipping past helpless defenders, was in evidence as Belgium claimed their greatest-ever World Cup scalp by beating Brazil in the quarterfinals.

In the dying minutes of the match, with a 2-1 lead, Hazard constantly carried the ball forward, drawing fouls to offer the Belgium backline some respite

Long linked with a move to Real Madrid, a move to Spain looks more realistic this summer than at any time of his Chelsea career, with Madrid president Florentino Perez often influenced by outstanding World Cup performers and Ronaldo looking set to exit the Santiago Bernabeu.

Even if a move to Madrid does materialise, Hazard will be denied a self-confessed dream of working under another French influence on his formation as a player, Zinedine Zidane.

As a child, Hazard used to study videos of the man who led France to the World Cup in 1998 - and stepped down as Real boss in May, to hone and copy his skills.

Twenty years on, he's just two games away from matching Zidane's feat.

To do so, though, he must prevent France's own talented crop of Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann from following in Zidane's footsteps in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

First Published: Monday, July 09, 2018 04:22 PM
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