74 minutes deep into Belgium’s UEFA Nations League semi-final clash with France, Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard released a pass and immediately felt something was wrong, as he slowed to a walking pace, headed to the bench while the ball was still in play, and took off his captain’s armband.
“We are not sure what happened to Hazard,” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said after his side lost 2 - 3 in heartbreaking fashion. “We will have to check in the next few hours what happens to him.”
Beyond that, there is no official diagnosis, yet. We’ll know more tomorrow morning upon waking, and hope for the best.
It was a sour way to end a disappointing night for Belgium — a team that completely dominated play in the first half, went up two goals, and got brilliant performances from nearly everyone — particularly Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, and Eden Hazard.
Hazard played in his familiar Belgium role, where he slides in on the left-side of the attack in a 3-4-3; while Yannick Carrasco takes the wing-back role on the left — allowing Hazard to play more freely across the pitch as a hybrid 10 without many defensive duties.
Hazard shone, as he nominally does with the national team. He helped Belgium circulate possession in France’s third, as the Belgians had the collective goal of finding the vertical pass to Lukaku as soon as possible. Once they found it (and it was inevitable as France defended deep and passively in that first half), Lukaku’s hold-up play unlocked a series of offensive possibilities, as Belgium would start making cutting runs into the box and let Lukaku go to work with either a shot of his own, or a nice pass into a cutting teammate.
Hazard’s link-up play was tidy, his touches in tight spaces quick and decisive. He often roamed to the right-side, and was rarely stationary.
The Belgian finished the game with 64 touches — but his influence was reduced in the second half as he and his entire team were pinned deep during France’s comeback.
We’ll have more on Hazard’s injury tomorrow. A report on Karim Benzema’s performance will go up separately.