FIFA World Cup 2018: Watch out France, Hazard ahead!
On a mission to ensure Belgium's 'golden generation' live up to their billing, star forward Eden spells danger for Les Bleus' final dreams
Eden Hazard is one of the French academy system's finest exports in the past decade but he could be the man to end Didier Deschamps's bid for World Cup glory.
In six seasons in England, Hazard has won plenty of admirers with Chelsea. But some doubt whether he has the desire to back up his talent and challenge Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the world's best player. So far in Russia, Hazard looks like a man on a mission to ensure Belgium's so-called golden generation live up to their billing by bringing home the World Cup for the first time in the country's history.
France forwards Antoine Griezmann (left) and Kylian Mbappe. Pic/Getty Images
Handed the armband by Roberto Martinez despite Vincent Kompany's return from injury, the Spaniard has drawn out Hazard's leadership qualities. "I think Eden is in a great moment of his career," Martinez said before the tournament. "Look at his age, he is the captain, in terms of leadership — he never finds it difficult to go for the ball."
Hazard's willingness and ability to carry the ball under pressure, jinking past helpless defenders, was in evidence as Belgium claimed their greatest-ever World Cup scalp by beating Brazil in the quarter-finals. His leadership was also in evidence with a man-of-the-match performance as the Red Devils came from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in Last 16.
As a child, Hazard used to study videos of Zinedine Zidane, who led France to the World Cup in 1998. Twenty years on, he's just two games away from matching Zidane's feat. To do so, though, he must prevent France's own talented crop of Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann from following in Zidane's footsteps here today.
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