World Cup 2014: Eden Hazard plays down accolades ahead of Belgium vs Russia

Chelsea forward wants to improve his game

Eden Hazard set something of a tone for Sunday, by specifically saying he didn’t deserve a certain status.

Belgian manager Marc Wilmots had praised the Chelsea forward as potentially being “one of the best five players in the world”, in a clear departure from his measured attempts to downplay so much of the hype around his squad. It was also in defiance of some of the debate around Hazard, given that he is still seen as someone who doesn’t fully replicate his club form for his country.

“To be honest, I don’t think I deserve it at the moment,” Hazard said. “To be thought of as one of the best five in the world, I would need to score more goals for a start. I would really need to score almost every game because that is what the best players in the world - like [Leo] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo - do every season.

“I can definitely play better and we can also play better as a group.”

 

Meeting expectation and rectifying reputations are really what this fixture is all about. On the one side are a Russian team who remain among the game's great underachievers, and a manager in Fabio Capello who still has international football as the single minimal entry on a magnificent CV. Both are seeking to make amends.

Of all the European countries to have won a trophy, Russia have gone on the longest drought, one even worse than England’s. It is 54 years since the old Soviet Union won the European Championships, and the modern Russia have never got out of a group stage of the World Cup.

Capello has meanwhile won every club trophy that matters, but managed virtually nothing in the international game. A first-round exit in Brazil would make his last-16 elimination with England in 2010 look even worse. Russia’s opening 1-1 draw against Korea was hardly reassuring, and leaves them needing a result in Belo Horizonte.

Belgium’s requirements are not so great after the 2-1 victory over Algeria but that very match almost deepened the debate about their exact ability. On the one hand, they looked so flat against a notionally poor side, as all the expectation seemed to get to them. On the other, they then rallied superbly when the pressure was at its greatest to produce a win of character. Either way, it was still difficult to escape the feeling that they remain a collection of individuals.

This fixture will tell a lot, but Hazard believes the Algeria win will release them.

“We try every day to improve and to make our country proud, and that’s what we will do again against Russia. They are a strong team and it will be another really big test for us. But winning our first match has given us confidence. I think we will go out there feeling good and relaxed. And if we play to our best, I think the fans here will enjoy watching us."

His mood could be key, not least against a defence as durable as one fashioned by Capello. In the first game, it was as if Hazard was too isolated. He needs to take centre stage. Everyone involved in this game needs to make a significant statement.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
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

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup