By Shikharr Chandra
Eden Hazard scored 14 goals and made seven assists in the Premier League last season. He won the Chelsea Player of the Year award and was voted the Best Young Player in the Premier League. The stage was set for him to deliver on the biggest stage of them all - the WorldCup.
The momentum was on the Belgian's side as he went to Brazil along with his much-hyped teammates who were expected to deliver this time around considering the star-studded line-up in their ranks.
But as the Red Devils left the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia on Saturday night, it was a similar story that had surrounded them throughout the tournament. Despite making the last eight of the tournament, Marc Wilmots's side was hardly pleasing to watch. They scraped through the group stages and needed extra time against a resurgent United States side that pushed them to their limits.
The major problem with Belgium was that despite having such a talented squad, they never looked like a unit. Much like the England side of recent years. Wilmots looked short of ideas and the players under performed in almost every game. The side was slow to start their games and every one of their goals came after 70 minutes. They lacked the combined effort of a team and needed a substitute to bail them out most of the time.
Against Argentina, they managed zero shots on goal and despite having one of the most balanced squads in the tournament, they hardly threatened a side that had been suffering from major defensive and midfield issues.
Among their list of failings, one name will probably standout among the rest. That of Eden Hazard, was arguably the most disappointing player in this summer's tournament.
A quick glance towards that Belgian side and only Hazard comes out as the most established player in the attacking half and ironically he was the one that failed to light up the tournament. With both Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi still in their teenage years and Kevin De Bruyne suffering from a rather disruptive league campaign that saw him change clubs from Chelsea to Wolfsburg, the onus was on Hazard to deliver and sadly he did not.
In their march towards the quarter finals, Belgium faced Algeria, South Korea, Russia and USA hardly the kind of sides that could trouble the die Routen Teufel but even against them Hazard hardly found his feet barring the result against Russia where he did well to find Origi in the dying minutes of the game.
As he stepped out against Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player on the planet right now, Hazard had a chance to leave behind a statement but instead the pressure of the occasion got the better of him. While the Barcelona forward impressed yet again helping out his team mates by dropping into the midfield as well as finding the space in the attack, Hazard saw himself taken off in the 68th minute to be replaced by Nacer Chadli.
Whilst other players of his age in Neymar and James Rodriguez have delivered consistently throughout the tournament, Hazard's mediocre tournament saw him fall behind the elites. The 23-year old managed zero goals and just two assists in the World Cup and was a shadow of the kind of player he was for Chelsea.
Against Argentina, Hazard created just one chance, he managed three in his first two group games and none in the final game. Hardly the kind of statistics that one would associate with a player of Hazard's calibre.
Putting the blame on Hazard entirely is a tad unfair. In all fairness he was hardly supported by his team mates. De Bruyne seemed to have over hit his passes more often than not and both the strikers looked very raw and were impressive only when they came on as substitutes. Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas were also disappointing.
In the end as Belgium leave the camp dejected and desolated, they will look back at their time at Brazil introspecting what went wrong, the performances of Hazard and co will be the most obvious matter of discussion. A team of whom much was expected and a player from whom millions had high hopes, failed to deliver in the end and have possibly thrown away the chance of leaving behind a legacy in football, at least this time.