EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 1, 2014

World Cup Belgium puts Hazard in front of the U.S.

SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — Eden Hazard knows it’s time to live up to his name at the World Cup, and to make sure the United States realizes what that stands for.

The Belgian playmaker is aware his country is counting on a match-long display of Hazard dazzle against the United States today.

“In this World Cup, I have yet to play a great match, even if I had good moves which were decisive,” Hazard acknowledged.

And the instructions from coach Marc Wilmots for today’s game are clear because he expects Hazard “to take charge of the match” and “impose himself as a leader.”

Unlike the players who have confirmed their star status at the World Cup, like Neymar for Brazil and Messi for Argentina, Hazard is still finding his range. Within Europe he is one of the half dozen best creative players, but at the World Cup so far he hasn’t consistently delivered on that potential.

Belgium has escaped with two victories in the games Hazard was starting, each time with the playmaker providing decisive assists. In both games, he was playing below par until those big moments.

“They are asking me to be decisive, and it has been tough,” Hazard said. The responsibility falling on the 23-year-old Chelsea playmaker could be even bigger on Tuesday if Vincent Kompany, captain and undisputed leader of team, is still sidelined with an injured groin.

Hazard is coming off more than a week of good rest, disregarding five minutes of play against South Korea, while the U.S. defenders are coming off a tough game against Germany last Thursday.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann knows all too well what he is up against. “You have to have a special eye on him. You have to double cover everything that goes out, you have to shift tremendously,” Klinsmann said yesterday.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Merrimack Valley

Eagle-Tribune News Videos
Photos of the Week