Belgium vs United States match preview World Cup 2014: Eden Hazard and the Red Devils must add flair to their efficiency

They have three wins out of three but have had unconvincing performances

They arrived at this World Cup as fancied outsiders and have put together three straight wins but when Belgium face the United States in the last 16 in Salvador today, the pressure is on to add some flair to their efficient displays so far.

LIVE: The latest from Argentina vs Switzerland and Belgium vs United States

Marc Wilmots’ Belgium may have topped Group H but the failure of their highly regarded attacking players to light up the tournament has raised questions, and the spotlight is burning particularly intensely on their star playmaker, Eden Hazard.

Hazard struck 17 goals for Chelsea and earned the PFA Player of the Year award in 2013/14 in a campaign where the only doubts – raised by his manager, Jose Mourinho – were about his defensive application. Here in Brazil the questions concern his overall impact. He failed to impose himself as hoped for in the early stages of Belgium’s first two games against Algeria and Russia, even if he came to life in the closing stages to set up the winning goal each time.

Wilmots laughed in his press conference at the Arena Fonte Nova yesterday when yet another question about the Chelsea man came up, saying: “You ask a lot about a player who has already given a lot.”

However, his suggestion that Hazard was a danger when the opposition gave him space to play in was instructive as there is a feeling that Belgium have struggled when denied that space; only when Algeria, Russia and South Korea tired and space opened up, did they finally break through.

Hazard acknowledged that the time has come to step up a level. “Until now I’ve been involved in some nice moves but I’ve not yet produced a great match at this World Cup,” he said yesterday. “I hope I can combine these two aspects against the US. I’d like to play a decisive role and be more consistent during the whole game.”

These words were echoed by Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel, who said: “We have trust in Eden, we all know his quality, he makes a difference at any time. I am sure we will see a big performance from him tomorrow.” If so, a first World Cup quarter-final since 1986 may well beckon for the Red Devils.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor