With the World Cup now having whittled itself down to its final four teams, it is now time to take a look at which midfielders have impressed the most over the past few days. This was a close-run thing this time, as the players played their hearts out in order to help the nation book a place in the World Cup semi-finals. Belgium were arguably the most impressive side in the last eight, overcoming tournament favourites Brazil. Their 2-0 win means they now face a date with destiny against neighbours France in the semi-final this week, with the French having also advanced past South American opposition when they disposed of Uruguay. With both sides now just two wins away from becoming world champions, much is at stake.
While France were as assured as ever in their match, the Belgians were the ones who will have raised more impressed eyebrows with the way they professional dealt with the attacking threat posed by the Brazilians. Much of that threat was nullified by the Belgian midfield of course, with Chelsea star Eden Hazard on top form as ever. Croatia star Luka Modric was the other name in the running for this week’s award, but Hazard pips him based on what a massive result that win was. That is not a statement made simply in the context of the World Cup of course, but in the greater scheme of things this result will spur on another generation of young players in Belgium to grow up and emulate their heroes at this tournament.
The match with France is one where Hazard is likely to be looked to heavily as his side aim to deal with the emergence on the opposite side of the pitch of 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe, who is being touted as a future superstar on the world stage. Hazard’s running will need to be at its quickest, and his passing at its most crisp if he is going to outshine the Paris Saint-Germain forward and help Belgium finally reach the World Cup final for the very first time. The sharpness Hazard possesses in his feet while moving the ball is an absolute joy to behold as he showed numerous times in the 2-1 win over Brazil.
The man himself seems to be regularly linked with a move away from Chelsea, with La Liga giants Real Madrid often credited with an interest in his services. It is easy to see why when a player can perform at such a high level at this stage, and Hazard is taking it all in his stride as things are going. It is somewhat surprising to see a player for a nation as relatively inexperienced this deep into a major tournament as Belgium are simply conducting the play as well as he does, but with the likes of Premier League rivals Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne playing alongside him (as they both have done at Chelsea in the past) there will always be an option for a pass. Hazard’s keen eye and tricky feet will find a team-mate more often than not, and so perhaps it is France – rather than Belgium – who will need to be at their best when the semi-finals come around.
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