BRUSSELS (AP) — Will Eden Hazard’s lack of playing time at Real Madrid cost Belgium at the World Cup?
That’s the question all Belgium fans are asking, and they’ll get a glimpse of the answer when their team take on Wales and Holland in the Nations League this week.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez called up the player for a couple of games and said he wanted to see him on the pitch, something that rarely happened in Madrid.
Since he joined Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2019, Hazard, 31, has struggled with injuries, including a broken right leg during his first season that had a long-term impact.
This season, he has been on the bench in four games and has played a total of 158 minutes.
After Hazard put in a stunning display in this month’s 3-0 win against Celtic – including his first Champions League goal since November 2020 – many observers thought the performance would kick-start his season.
But Hazard was substituted an hour later in Madrid’s next Liga game, and has not featured since.
Another source of concern for the Belgian is that Hazard has been replaced by striker Karim Benzema at Madrid, with coach Carlo Ancelotti using him in a dummy role.
Asked by RTL about the position of risk with his club, Martinez clarified that it is not an option for the Belgian.
“We have a better team when we’ve got a consistent No.9, and Eden uses the spaces around him,” Martinez said.
Hazard’s problems with Madrid have already affected his performance with the national team. In four Nations League games this year, Heard has made just one assist and was substituted after 45 minutes in a 4-1 home loss to the Netherlands in June. And the last time Hazard played a full game in a Belgium shirt was a year ago in June 2021 at the European Championship against Finland.
Not so good for a player who, with 120 international appearances, has been the hallmark of Belgium over the last 10 years, hoping to lead his team to the World Cup title.
Belgium will play their third World Cup match in Qatar. It will be the last chance for the country’s ‘golden generation’ players to win a major title after successive failures in recent years. Italy won the European Championship last year.
But despite all the doubts about the risk, Martinez has faith in the former Chelsea star.
“Eden is in a happy place, he is ready to perform, and I have no worries,” he said.
Martinez admitted he was “very worried” when Hazard was playing in pain ahead of his recent ankle surgery and was unable to move freely on the pitch.
“The new surgery gave him a new way of feeling,” he said. “The lack of minutes doesn’t really worry me at his level,” he said. we have
Three points behind the Netherlands in their group, Belgium play Wales on Thursday and the Netherlands in Amsterdam three days later. This group also includes Poland.
Belgium will be without striker Romelu Lukaku, who remains out with a thigh injury.