Hazard eyes trophies to go with No.1 status

Vincent Kompany is happy that Belgium have risen to the top of Fifa's world rankings. They were No. 71 in 2007.
Vincent Kompany is happy that Belgium have risen to the top of Fifa's world rankings. They were No. 71 in 2007.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BRUSSELS • Belgium star Eden Hazard believes the Red Devils will have to deliver silverware as they prepare to move to the top of the Fifa world rankings next month.

Belgium finished their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 3-1 victory over Israel on Tuesday to top Group B. And they will go to France next year as one of the favourites.

Their latest win means they will be No. 1 on 1,440 points when the next world rankings are released, displacing World Cup finalists Argentina, who will drop to third (1,383). World champions Germany will move up a spot to second on 1,388 points.

"We know we'll be judged on trophies - if there are trophies," Hazard, scorer of his side's third following goals from Dries Mertens and Kevin de Bruyne, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

"But if we play like we did tonight, then I think we can be ambitious. We'll see what happens in the future."

Belgium's rise to the summit for the first time in their history marks an astonishing turnaround, albeit one that puts the Fifa ranking system in the spotlight.

In June 2007, they were at an all-time low of 71. And they have played just one major tournament in the last 13 years - the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they exited in the quarter-finals.

Ranking points are based on four criteria: the result of the match, the importance of the game, the strength of the opposition and the strength of the confederation.

As the results of friendlies are also taken into account, the Fifa rankings are widely regarded as volatile.

But Belgium and Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany, who played 58 minutes despite his club's concern over his fitness, could not care less about how Belgium rose to the top.

"There will always be people who will say we deserve it, others who say we don't," he told RTBF after Belgium advanced to their first European Championship since 2000.

"But seeing the celebration we're having today, we don't care about that. We're happy and we have to be partisan."

Israel, who went to Belgium with an outside chance of finishing third at Bosnia-Herzegovina's expense, scored a consolation goal in the 88th minute. Bosnia's 3-2 victory in Cyprus, however, ensured that the play-off spot went to them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Hazard eyes trophies to go with No.1 status'. Print Edition | Subscribe