Belgium may be out of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship after a heartbreaking semi-final but in playmaker Eden Hazard they have unearthed a real gem.
Belgium may be out of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship after a heartbreaking semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat by Spain but in playmaker Eden Hazard they have unearthed a real gem.
The hosts' performance has given hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel for the senior side and Hazard's speed, control, passing and shooting has been a particular delight. Spain coach Juan Santisteban, who has brought on as many stars as anyone in recent decades, singled out Hazard for praise after last night's match and Belgium chief Bob Browaeys agrees. "Hazard is a very good player, who may have a beautiful future," Browaeys said. "As a playmaker he is very special."
Highs and lows
Hazard helped put Belgium ahead against ten-man Spain when the LOSC Lille Métropole player's 63rd-minute shot was deflected in by David Rochela before Bojan Krkić's equaliser. The No10 also converted in the shoot-out to make it 4-3 - though it was all then to go wrong for the hosts. "It was a great feeling to score, and we certainly thought that with a 1-0 lead against ten players it would be possible to reach the final," Hazard told uefa.com. "I don't know why we let it slip through our fingers, but it was an incredible goal from Bojan."
It is not over for Hazard and his colleagues at this level, as their top-five finish means they are headed for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea Republic later this summer. "We have learned a lot here and played against excellent teams with good players," he said. "Now we can even learn more in the World Cup. This tournament has been a very positive experience for all of us, so now we have to take those experiences back to our clubs. I have been talking a lot about our dream of playing in the first team at Lille with France's Omar Benzerga." That wish may be very close to fruition judging by his performances over the last week.