BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Belgium is looking to playmaker Eden Hazard to come alive during Tuesday’s opening World Cup match against Algeria to make sure the team can live up to the pre-tournament hype.
Coach Marc Wilmots said that the Chelsea star “can be among the five best in world,” with his vision on the ball, the deft dribbling and powerful shot.
With Algeria expected to play well back in defense against the Group H favorite, it could well come down to a flash of individual brilliance to break open the game.
Wilmots has a fully fit squad for the game and said all of Hazard’s skills would amount to nothing if the team fails to back him up.
“It’s not only a tournament for Eden, but for the whole team,” he said.
Belgium is favored to advance into the second round from a group that also contains Russia and South Korea.
While captain Vincent Kompany readily highlights Hazard’s abilities, he believes quality runs deep in the team.
There are many players “in our team that you can name going forward that are really good,” he said. ” But ultimately I consider our success down to our behavior as a team.”
The players have shown a fiery spirit, going so aggressively at one another during training last weekend that both winger Kevin De Bruyne and forward Divock Origi had to be treated for ankle injuries.
On the eve of Belgium’s opening match, both were able to train without any problems.
Competition for places is the team is high due to the number of Premier League and Spanish La Liga players are all trying to get on the starting lineup.
“The players are hungry, it is our strength,” Wilmots said, ruling out any prospect of playing conservatively or settling for draws. “We will always be going for the win.”
With such a spirit, Hazard could be key.
The 23-year-old Belgian could be yet prove to be another creative player to build a winning combination around, much like Lionel Messi did with a mediocre Argentina and Andrea Pirlo with Italy.
“He has the potential, he has the team. Now it is up to him to show it,” Wilmots said.
Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert