• World Cup

Hazard: I am not worthy, yet

ESPN staff
June 19, 2014
Eden Hazard provided a key assist during Belgium's 2-1 opening round victory over Algeria © Getty Images

Eden Hazard has reacted with embarrassment to claims by Belgium head coach Marc Wilmotts that he can be one of the top five players in the world.

Wilmotts, who oversaw Belgium's opening win against Algeria on Tuesday, said all Hazard needs to do is "release the handbrake and go" to take his place among the greats in his first World Cup.

But the player himself has shrugged off the praise, choosing to take a humbler line in the pre-match build-up to Belgium's clash with Russia on Sunday.

"Seriously? He said that?" said Hazard. "Well, I never like to talk about myself in that way because, to be honest, I don't think I deserve it at the moment.

"To be thought of as one of the best five in the world, I would need to score more goals for a start. I would really need to score almost every game because that that is what the best players in the world - like Messi and Ronaldo - do every season.

"These are the guys everyone else has to aim for. It's nice of the coach to say such things, but I wouldn't say the same."

Hazard, who has been a target for Paris Saint-Germain this summer, provided the assist for Dries Mertens' winner in the 2-1 victory over Group H rivals Algeria, after Manchester United's under-fire midfielder Marouane Fellaini had headed the equaliser.

But Hazard admitted he struggled to make an impact in the win and expects to improve as the tournament continues.

"I didn't find it easy," Hazard said. "It was difficult for all the midfielders and forwards, especially in the first half, to find the space to show what we can do.

"I can definitely play better and we can also play better as a group. But this was just a start for us, and we have won our first game, which we always felt would be the most important one. There's not much more we could ask.

"This is all new for us, so taking one game at a time is all we can do. With Belgium, I think it's tough for anyone to make predictions. We have a good team, that's clear. We are talented and we are young. But this is our first experience of the World Cup and who knows how far we can go? We don't know and neither does anyone else.

"All I can say is that we try every day to improve and to make our country proud, and that's what we will do again against Russia. They are a strong team and it will be another really big test for us. But winning our first match has given us confidence.

"I think we will go out there feeling good and relaxed. And if we play to our best, I think the fans here will enjoy watching us."

While Wilmotts might rate Hazard as one of the best in the world, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was less generous in his praise last season. The Portuguese criticised Hazard as someone who is "not 100% ready to sacrifice himself for the team" after their 3-1 Champions League defeat by Atletico Madrid.

A rift between the two men lead to speculation that Hazard could leave the club, with Paris Saint-Germain the leading suitors. But PSG manager Laurent Blanc has since been forced to admit Hazard will stay at Stamford Bridge after the midfielder opened talks on a new contract with the west-London club.

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