With Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both eliminated from the World Cup on Saturday, this tournament now has a superstar void. Belgium and Chelsea forward Eden Hazard plans to step up and seize the opportunity to be the star man of World Cup 2018.
In a news conference on Sunday ahead of Belgium’s knockout round clash against Japan on Monday, Hazard welcomed suggestions that his time has come, with the two players who have dominated the Ballon d’Or award in recent years now out of the tourney.
“I hope so, they’re not in the World Cup, so now it’s time to shine,” he said.
“Yeah, I just want to go through the quarter-final, semi-final and maybe the final. We play for Belgium, we have a lot of good players, but of course I want to go to the final. ”
“Messi and Ronaldo are out now but a lot of good players are still in the World Cup. We’ll see at the end. It’s in our hands. We need to play together, give everything and see what happens.”
Thus far in the tournament, Belgium have looked as impressive as any side in the field, and they entered this World Cup with very high expectations. The Red Devils are right in the midst of their golden generation, with so many of their most important players currently in their physical primes.
The 27-year-old Hazard perfectly embodies this, and he knows it. Hazard expressed the belief of many football observers and pundits- this could be the tournament where the Belgians finally truly realize their potential.
“I’m a lot stronger than two, four years ago. I have more experience, definitely,” the winner of the 2015 PFA Player of the Year Award said.
“Knockout matches have a lot to do with experience, even when you have good talents. Most of us are between 25-33, so we have the same level of maturity.”
With so many presumptive title contenders now eliminated from the tournament, and other leading candidates not looking near as impressive as most expected them to, this could be perfect chance for Belgium to make a very deep run. On paper, this could be their moment, but Hazard knows they can’t take anything or anybody for granted.
“We know what to do and not what to do,” Hazard continued.
“Japan is totally different to Wales (the side that eliminated Belgium from the 2016 Euros), and we’ll take this as seriously as possible. If we think it’s going to be easy tomorrow, we may lose.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.
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