As Wales prepare to take on Belgium for a place in the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 2016, we look at the key battle between two of the game’s greatest talents.
Gareth Bale has been Wales’ talisman for some time, but has set the tournament alight with three fantastic goals, including a stunning free-kick in their opening win over Slovakia.
Similarly, Chelsea and Belgium’s Eden Hazard has been another of the stars of the tournament, with his showing in Belgium’s demolition of Hungary undeniably being the single-best individual performance of Euro 2016 to date.
Tonight, the two nations – and these two maestros – take to the stage, with the prize for the victor being a last-four tussle with Portugal, who, despite failing to win a single game in normal time thus far, have reinstated themselves as the archetypal tournament “dark horses”.
Central to either side’s hopes of progression, and indeed against the Portuguese in Lyon next Wednesday, will be Messrs Bale and Hazard respectively.
It is hard to compare both players. One is a speed-king; the ultimate sprinter and a set-piece specialists with a wand of a left foot – the other is the lord of the dribble, leaving defenders on their backsides with gravity-defying balance and agility.
Yet, these intriguing stats show that Hazard, this tournament at least, has been head and shoulders the better of the two:
Despite leading on the goals front (unsurprising considering Bale’s utilisation as a second striker for his nation), Hazard takes the accolades in virtually every other category.
Three assists and a wonder-goal against Hungary, and a take-on success rate of 88% (in simpler terms, he has taken on players 22 times and got the better of his marker on nineteen occasions) demonstrate Hazard’s outstanding form.
Bale has had nineteen shots and scored three goals – a conversion rate of 16%, which is slightly better than Hazard’s rate of 11%. Nevertheless, Hazard’s importance is underlined by perhaps the most critical of statistics for these two magicians – chances created. Bale has served up three chances for his team-mates, whilst Hazard has five time that number, bagging three assists in the process.
There is no denying that both are truly wonderful players, and with these 2016 promo codes for Ladbrokes, it is certainly worthwhile backing either of these players to shine. Indeed, Hazard is currently favourite to land the prestigious Man of the Match accolade, with Bale third behind Kevin de Bruyne.
It seems almost implausible that a man who was – at times – utterly horrendous for Chelsea last season could have such an impact in an international tournament, but Hazard’s return to form since April has seen him show the world just how good he really is, as this goal against Liverpool demonstrates:
Who will triumph in the Battle of the Maestros? Show your support on Twitter by using the hashtags #TeamHazard and #TeamBale! Wales take on Belgium this evening, with the match kicking off at 9pm local time (CET).