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Thursday, 06 May 2021 12:05 GMT

Euro 2016: Put on your 'Hazard' the Belgians are here


(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Belgium''s ''golden generation'' is finally living up to its billing at the European Championship.

Expectations have long been heaped on a group of players led by Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, and the team has struggled to deliver.

Now, Belgium has qualified for a place in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 after a convincing 4-0 victory against Hungary on Sunday at the Stadium de Toulouse.

Considered as one of the pre-tournament favourites, Belgium faced stinging criticism after a poor start to the tournament, losing 2-0 to Italy in its opening group match. Since then, the team has rebounded and kept three clean sheets against Ireland, Sweden and Hungary.

Having lost in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup to Argentina, Belgium has now reached the same stage at Euro 2016 - and faces a far more beatable opponent in Wales when they meet on Friday in Lille.

Belgium will fancy their chances although Hazard admitted Wales, and their Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale, could be complicated. "They''re a complicated side to play against. We played them in the qualifiers, we haven''t beaten them I don''t think," he added.

"They''re quite a compact side with a star player up front (Bale) so we''re going to have to study them well and try to do our best to win this match."

Defender Toby Alderweireld opened the scoring with a header in the 10th minute, but Belgium had to wait before securing the win, thanks to some moments of brilliance from Hazard.

The Chelsea playmaker provided the pass for substitute Michy Batshuayi to tap home in the 78th minute, and then scored a spectacular solo goal after a mazy run two minutes later.

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco added the fourth in stoppage time.

"Eden did a magnificent job. On the goal that he set up for me, but also defensively and offensively, he was superb. He dribbled past two players to give me the ball. I was unmarked and all I had to do was stick it in the net.

"I''ve got only one thing to say to him: thanks captain," said midfielder Batshuayi.

Asked if it was his best performance for Belgium, Hazard simply said "yes" before breaking into a smile. "It was a great match," Hazard said. "Beyond my goal, it was a great collective performance. We created a lot of chances and finished enough of them."

The only complaint Belgian coach Marc Wilmots had was that his players should have killed off the match earlier. "We should have been 3-0 up after the first half," Wilmots said.

"We kept the game 1-0 too long. We needed too many chances, and in big games we usually don''t have so many chances.

"But I told them to be calm. I told them to keep going because we were moving the ball very well."

Hungary paid for an early defensive lapse that left its players chasing the game and exposed to Belgium''s attacks on the break.

"I wasn''t happy because we conceded the goal from a set piece," Hungary coach Bernd Storck said. "We weren''t brave as we had been in previous matches. I thought there was a lack of confidence."

"We can leave with our heads held high," he said.


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