Argentina vs Belgium World Cup 2014 preview: There is more to Argentina than Lionel Messi, warns Belgium coach Marc Wilmots

Eden Hazard will need to display his improving defensive abilities

Brasilia

The Belgium manager Marc Wilmots admits that he has told Chelsea’s Eden Hazard that he can be “even more effective” for the national side, who face Argentina in a World Cup quarter-final today, but insists that the defensive aspect of his game which Jose Mouinho criticised has improved.

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Wilmots, who seemed far less burdened by expectations than the Argentina manager Alex Sabella when the two gave pre-match press conferences yesterday said that Hazard is not “lacking very much” and that he has been developing his ability to offer defensive protection for 18 months now. Mourinho criticised the forward in May, saying of Hazard that “he’s not the kind of player ready to sacrifice himself 100 per cent for the team.” Hazard will need to put in a big shift today, as he and Jan Vertonghen look to tighten up the Belgian left – an area where Lionel Messi is likely to threaten.

Read more: Can Di Maria satisfy Argentina cravings?
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Wilmots insisted that his side would not focus purely on Messi as they seek revenge for the 2-0 semi-final defeat at Argentina’s expense in 1986. “People tend to focus on Lionel Messi, rightly so,” he said. “But this morning I watched the Argentina v Switzerland match and their team is not one player, but a whole. You have to strike a balance. But they allowed the Swiss a number of scoring opportunities, so there will be chances. We had to wait for a long time before scoring against the US [in the round of 16] and little things can make the difference. We will stick to our philosophy and not just defend. We'll not be adapting to their style. We'll be trusting in our own.”

 

Sabella may try to create greater creativity by replacing Fernando Gago with Lucas Biglia, the Lazio player, in midfield, allowing greater exploitation of the space created by the focus on Messi. Federico Fernandez, who has not impressed in central defence, may make way for Manchester City’s Martin Demichelis.

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