Eden Hazard will leave the field with mixed feelings tonight. Belgium progressed to the quarter-finals of the European championships, defeating the reigning champions Portugal, but the winger hobbled off with a muscle injury after playing 87 minutes.
The Belgian captain started on the left wing within Belgium’s 3-4-3 system. Both Hazard and De Bruyne had the freedom to roam in attack, with both looking to exploit the half spaces in the final third. Eden lined up on the left side of the pitch with his younger brother, Thorgan, behind him in the left wing back role. Oftentimes, it was difficult to tell the two apart, but it was Thorgan, not Eden, who broke the deadlock with a cracking shot. The younger Hazard did what his brother used to do so well, cut in on his right foot and unleashed a shot from outside the box finding the bottom corner.
Despite Thorgan drawing plaudits as the hero, Eden put in a decent shift. He broke lines on more than one occasion with a deft touch or delicate flick, often releasing Lukaku into space. The Real Madrid winger attempted 7 dribbles in this match, completing 4 and he was the most fouled player on the pitch with 4 fouls suffered. As the match wore on, Hazard looked more and more comfortable. It finally felt like the Belgian captain may be able to put a run of matches together and find some semblance of his former self.
Then injury struck. A hard sprint in the 87th minute forced Hazard’s body to the limit. Immediately the winger felt his hamstring and called for a substitution. The severity of the injury is yet to be determined, but Hazard is likely devastated.
Meanwhile, in the Belgium net, Thibaut Courtois put in yet another assured performance. The keeper came up big on two occasions in the final ten minutes to keep Portugal at bay. Andre Silva nearly equalized in the 88th minute, but Courtois was there to deny any opportunity. In total, Courtois made 4 saves, 3 of which were from shots inside the box.
Belgium’s next match is against Italy - one of the tournament favorites. Eden Hazard, Real Madrid, and all of Belgium will be hoping that his injury is minor and the player can feature for the Red Devils in the quarter finals.