It’s the Golden Generation of Belgian football, so we are told. With clear quality in abundance throughout their squad, de Rode Duivels find themselves in a position of being one of the considered contenders for the title heading into a major tournament this summer.
If you put the squad up against Germany or Spain’s, Belgium may not have the strongest side in the tournament – but they’re not far away. Perhaps all they need is one star man, the kind of player who has the quality to take games by the scruff of the neck and be the difference between two sides.
Perhaps that man can be Eden Hazard.
It’s clearly been a difficult season at Stamford Bridge for Hazard. Maybe the pressure of Jose Mourinho’s pre-season claims that he had performed better than Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo last term have been playing on his mind. Or the transfer rumours that have been circulating regarding his future at the club may have had an effect.
We’re now past the half way stage of the campaign and Hazard is still yet to find the net for the Blues this term. But then, the whole of the squad as been underperforming this term and while on international duty, the former Lille man has looked as dangerous as ever.
In five matches for de Rode Duivels, reports have found that Hazard has found the net four times, including strikes in vital home qualifying victories over Bosnia-Herzegovina and Israel, which makes one wonder if there’s more to his below-par club form than meets the eye?
Make no mistake, even without Hazard’s undoubted ability, Belgium have got the players to be better than most teams in the competition. What’s more, with Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois between the sticks and a back four that is likely to include Tottenham duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen alongside Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany, they’ll be tough to break down too.
With Kevin de Bruyne, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku all likely to play some part too, Belgium are clearly one of the tournament’s main threats – but when he’s fit and firing, Hazard is their main threat.
With pace, skill and goals, he’ll be even more important to boss Marc Wilmots in the latter stages of the competition, where counter-attacking football is likely to come into play against the more possession-based sides like Spain and Germany.
The key for the 25 year old now is that he starts to produce some better performances on the field for Chelsea. If he can do so and start to gather some momentum, he can enter the competition somewhere approaching his best game and make no mistake – when he’s on his best game, Hazard is one of the best players in the world.
The question is, will he show it in France?