Best of Belgium’s past in the ‘Golden Generation’: Hazard

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DOHA: Eden Hazard admitted on Saturday that Belgium’s best chance of winning the World Cup has come and gone, but said they still have the quality and experience to lift the trophy in Qatar.

Belgium, who finished third at the tournament in Russia in 2018, is still ranked second in the world, but many of the much-acclaimed “Golden Generation” are still in their 30s.

“To be fair, I think we have a better chance of winning the four,” admitted the 31-year-old Hazard, speaking on the eve of Sunday’s match against Morocco.

“The team was better four years ago but we still have the quality to win games and win the competition. We have a few players, they are a little older now but we have the experience and the best goalkeeper in the world (Thibaut Courtois).”

“We have one of the best midfielders in the world, right now. We have good strikers. We have the team and I think it’s just the desire to win and the mentality.”

He added, “Belgium can win the World Cup if we are in good shape. If we are not, it will be difficult.”

The Real Madrid striker said he was not too concerned about Belgium’s struggles in their opening Group F match against Canada, which they won 1-0, but urged the team to play without fear.

“In the first game you always have a little bit of a fear,” he said, “you don’t always want the ball.” “Now we need to get over that. We must not be afraid to dribble, to play the killer pass. That’s what was missing in the first game.”

Hazard has struggled to replicate the form he has shown at Chelsea since moving to Spain in 2019 but says he has managed to deflect criticism of his performance.

“There has always been criticism,” he said. “Even when you play well you get criticized. I just try to focus on doing the best I can for my country and I will do everything I can.”

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was relaxed about his team’s form, highlighting the lack of time to prepare ahead of the tournament in Qatar.

“Slowly you will see the teams prepare after three games in the tournament,” he said.

“So instead of preparing for the World Cup, for a major tournament where you have three friendlies and you have four weeks to get everyone in top condition, teams have to prepare while they are in the tournament and that’s dangerous because it can cost you points.”

Martinez provided an update on the fitness of striker Romelu Lukaku, who is recovering from a thigh injury.

The Spaniard said the striker is not expected to be available until the Group C match against Croatia, in line with previous expectations.

“It’s ahead of where it should be,” Martinez said.

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