By Mark Doyle in Salvador
Eden Hazard has admitted he is “not at the level” of Lionel Messi ahead of Saturday’s World Cup clash between Belgium and Argentina.
Hazard played a part as the Red Devils edged past the United States 2-1 after extra-time in Salvador on Tuesday. In the quarter-finals they will play an Argentina side that was similarly pushed by Switzerland earlier in the day before progressing thanks to an Angel Di Maria strike.
The build-up to the weekend is likely to be dominated by the battle between Chelsea winger Hazard and his Barcelona counterpart Messi. Hazard, however, concedes he still has some way to go to reach the standards set by the four-time Fifa World Player of the Year.
He said: “I admire players like Messi. Today I am not at their level. I still have time, although it’s not my goal. My goal is the semis.
“Argentina don’t just have Messi. They have a good team but they rely a lot on him. He can make the difference at any moment.”
Hazard felt Belgium deserved to progress and would have done so in 90 minutes had it not been for USA goalkeeper Tim Howard producing 15 saves, a record in a World Cup match since 1966.
He added: “Howard had a superb game and if it wasn’t for him we would have won earlier.
“We were worried when they pulled it back to 2-1. We were very tired but we stayed solid and [goalkeeper] Thibaut [Courtois] saved us.
“We played a great game, it was a complete performance, both individually and collectively.”