EURO 2016

Belgium almost perfect: Hazard

Belgium fans going wild after Eden Hazard puts his team 3-0 up against Hungary in their last-16 clash. Earlier he had teed up Michy Batshuayi, who scored with his first touch after coming on as a substitute. Coach Marc Wilmots said it was Hazard's be
Belgium fans going wild after Eden Hazard puts his team 3-0 up against Hungary in their last-16 clash. Earlier he had teed up Michy Batshuayi, who scored with his first touch after coming on as a substitute. Coach Marc Wilmots said it was Hazard's best performance for the team. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Captain scores and gets assist in 4-0 win over Hungary and hopes for more against Wales

TOULOUSE • Eden Hazard could eclipse his "difficult" season with Chelsea by taking Euro 2016 by storm, according to Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel.

Hazard struggled to make his mark for Belgium as they finished runners-up in Group E behind Italy.

But in a Man-of-the-Match performance against Hungary in Toulouse on Sunday, Hazard, captain for the night, turned on the style to score his maiden goal as his country won 4-0 to secure a last-eight fight against Wales in Lille.

It will be the Red Devils' first European Championship quarter-finals since they lost the 1980 final.

Although Hazard warned that Wales will be a "complicated" side to play, Belgium are now waiting for a repeat performance against Gareth Bale's team on Friday.

  • State Of Play

  • RESULTS

    ROUND OF 16

    Switzerland 1 Poland 1 (after extra time, Poland win 5-4 on penalties)


    Wales 1 Northern Ireland 0


    Portugal 1 Croatia 0 (after extra time)


    France 2 Ireland 1


    Germany 3 Slovakia 0


    Belgium 4 Hungary 0


    Italy v Spain *

    England v Iceland *

    *Late kick-offs

"If we want to go all the way, we need Eden to be playing like he did tonight," said Witsel.

"He's getting better match by match, and it's good for us. He has all the qualities needed to win the (Fifa) Ballon d'Or (award) or to become the world's best player.

"For me, he's already among the world's best. After his difficult season at Chelsea, he's playing a lot more free, scoring goals and giving assists."

Chelsea team-mate and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had little to do in a one-sided performance that saw Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld head a 10th-minute opening goal before Belgium added three more in the second half.

Hazard was handed the captain's armband by coach Marc Wilmots, and the 25-year-old responded by producing what he said was his best performance in a Belgian shirt.

"There are a lot of people who are amazed that I gave him the captain's armband but you have to let this little man grow up," said Wilmots, who played for the team in Euro 2000.

"He doesn't talk much but he talks with his feet and that's what he did today.

"I told him that I wanted him to score a goal by cutting inside. He needs to have fun when he's on the pitch."

After Belgium spurned a host of chances in the opening half, they responded to a brief Hungary fightback after the interval in style.

Michy Batshuayi, with his first touch as a substitute, Hazard and Yannick Carrasco scored in the last 12 minutes to wrap up the win in the tournament's final match in Toulouse.

Hazard did all the creative work for Batshuayi's 78th-minute goal, which the substitute scored with his first touch after coming on.

"Eden did a magnificent job," said the midfielder.

"On the goal that he set up for me, but also defensively and offensively, he was superb.

"He dribbled past two players to give me the ball. I was unmarked and all I had to do was stick it in the net.

"I've got only one thing to say to him: Thanks, captain."

Hazard, meanwhile, was quick to salute Belgium's "collective" display. "Doing better than tonight would be difficult, I think. Everything was almost perfect. We scored goals, we created a lot of chances, we helped Thibaut (Courtois) keep a clean sheet," he said.

"All in all it was a great night, but we made it easy for ourselves.

"In the second half we killed off the match. To do better (against Wales) will be hard. But we'll try."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Belgium almost perfect: Hazard'. Print Edition | Subscribe