Matt Jones analyses the performance of Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard during the 2-0 win over England to seal third-place at the World Cup
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In a game that has courted controversy for the value it holds, Belgium raced out of the traps to score their quickest ever World Cup goal – the returning Thomas Meunier prodding in Nacer Chadli’s fine cross following a rapid counter-attack after just three minutes and 37 seconds.
England came alive in the second half but Toby Alderweireld cleared off the line from Eric Dier. And Eden Hazard, who had been a thorn in the Three Lions’ paw all day, sealed the win late on following another flowing move.
Here, we analyse the performance of Hazard, who cemented a fine tournament with his side’s second goal.
In a game that was always going to be difficult for both teams to muster any magic after demoralising semi-final exits, Hazard was trouble for England from the off, his jinking, darting runs and laser beam balls bisecting the Three Lions time and time again.
As England looked leggy, Hazard was a live wire, never giving England’s defenders a moment’s peace. He rounded off a fine performance with a deserved goal to kill England off and earn the Red Devils their best ever World Cup finish.
Hazard warning – The third-place play-off doesn’t mean anything, right? Well, someone forgot to tell Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne that as they tormented England. They posed countless problems for a ponderous Three Lions who looked like they’d rather be anywhere else.
Had Romelu Lukaku been on the same wavelength, Belgium could have blown them away. Hazard finished with three key passes and his seven dribbles – four more than any player on the field – left England chasing shadows.
Man of the moment – Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric will likely jostle for the World Cup’s Golden Ball, but Hazard warrants inclusion in the conversation after a scintillating summer – which wasn’t perhaps expected given his mixed club season. But he tore England to shreds here as he easily earned the man of the match award – his fourth of the tournament.
Pass accuracy – If there was one criticism to label at the Chelsea schemer it was his sloppiness in possession as he perhaps too often tried to thread the perfect ball through to a teammate. His passing accuracy of 77.2 per cent was lower only than goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ 60.
The preamble to this clash was that if there were going to be any fireworks, they would be sparked by Golden Boot-chasing Harry Kane and Lukaku. But the Manchester United man was wasteful – not for the first time this tournament – while Kane looked subdued.
How thankful we should be for Hazard then, who took an otherwise dour encounter and lit it up with this lively display. His Chelsea future was under scrutiny heading into the World Cup and this shimmering show to secure a place on the podium bookended a momentous month for the midfield magician. Surely one of the European giants will come calling.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com