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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there