A final 10 minutes flourish was enough to see Belgium book a place in the last 16 stage of the World Cup 2014 after a 1-0 win over Russia. Eden Hazard, as always, was a major factor in the Belgians getting this victory. This match ranks alongside the Iran 0-0 Nigeria encounter as one of the poorest games – for entertainment purposes – for the neutrals. Yet, one moment of magic from Hazard was enough to secure three points and passage to the knockout stages.
Hazard may have not scored in a World Cup yet, but he has had a major contribution in both of their matches. Skipping past two defenders with ease, Hazard laid the ball for substitute Divock Origi to score with just one minute of normal time remaining. The latest World Cup odds from Betfair place the Chelsea star as 5/1 to finish as Belgium’s top scorer in the tournament. An elated Hazard admitted after the match that Belgium has not been great. He said:
"We didn't play a very good match but the last 10 minutes were better and maybe the Russian defence got tired and we got more space for the substitutes, who were fresh, to exploit."
"I felt fit though - I'm in good shape and as I often make the difference towards the end of the match it shows I am still fresh."
The mark of great teams is the ability to win even when not playing well. It is, however, easy with players like Hazard the team.
After the spectacular campaign with Chelsea, Hazard came into the tournament with a lot of pressure. He admitted before the Russia match that the pressure of being one of the few players in this Belgian team to create chances was a heavy burden on him.
While there was positive news for Chelsea in the form of Hazard, there was equally bad news after yet another disappointing performance from Romelu Lukaku. He could not last until the hour mark after Belgium manager Marc Wilmots decided that had seen enough. His obvious displeasure was clear to see, but Wilmots was proved right as Lukaku’s replacement scored the winner.
It now looks highly unlikely that Lukaku will start Belgium’s final group match against Korea.
Thibaut Courtois did not have much to do, but he was good enough to get his first clean sheet of World Cup. The next step for Hazard will be to find the back of the net.
Courtois, Lukaku, and Hazard became the first Chelsea players to progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup.