Eden Hazard will definitely be at the starting eleven during Belgium’s Qatar World Cup campaign. The 31-year-old attacker has only sporadically played at Real Madrid this season, while his competitor Leandro Trossard is having a strong season at Brighton & Hove Albion. Roberto Martínez believes that the value of Hazard for Belgium should not be underestimated.
“Leandro Trossard is rightly spoken of,” acknowledges the Belgium national coach in an interview with VTM Nieuws. He calls it “great” to see what Trossard is doing at the current number nine in the Premier League. “Not many players ever made a hat-trick at Anfield or scored against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. He has the personality to influence big moments.’
“But there can be no discussion about the importance of Eden to the national team, with his career and experience. He was one of the key players in 2018 – that too is an important experience,” Martínez added. The Spaniard indicates that Hazard was currently pain-free, which was not the case during last year’s European Championship. “But then he helped the team at times. I think of those sixty minutes against Portugal. We should not underestimate what a fit and fresh Hazard can bring.’ Hazard played 98 minutes this season in La Liga (three games) and 131 minutes in the Champions League (also three games).
Martínez has no doubts about Hazard’s starting spot. “Because Eden is a player who can influence matches more when he starts. He is not used to having to pick up the pace of a match as a substitute.’ The fact that the 122-time international plays little at Real Madrid is, according to the elector, ‘not relevant’. Vincent Kompany was the perfect example at the World Cup in Russia. He hadn’t played for a long time and then completed four consecutive games in a very short time. That’s because you can work together for 24 hours and because of the adrenaline at a World Cup. We will help Eden every day to reach his best level.’
Martínez will announce his final World Cup squad on November 10. The national coach does not rule out taking players to Qatar who have not been called up for years or who have no experience at all with the national team. ‘That’s possible, because there are several injuries in some positions. At the moment we have to cover ourselves. We are stretching all the possibilities on the positions. We follow five players per position, so 55 players in total. For each position there are one or two players who have never played for the Red Devils . But we know how much quality they have.’
“It’s a big risk to take them and expect them to be ready for a big tournament right away. The expectations are high for our team,” said the national coach. “But these players can contribute and have something special, that’s why they’re on the list of 55. These players can’t just rely on their form. They mainly depend on injuries to other players.’ Belgium is in Group F at the World Cup with Canada, Morocco and Croatia.