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As Eden Hazard prepares to lead out Belgium for their Euro 2020 opener against Russia on Saturday, the concept of redemption will be firmly implanted into the captain’s mind.
Roberto Martinez’s side go into the tournament as one of the bookmakers’ frontrunners, just behind France and England, with big things expected from their ‘Golden Generation’.
An attack spearheaded by the indomitable Romelu Lukaku and with the creative talents of Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium will be expecting to make the latter stages after their third-place finish at the World Cup three years ago.
Of course, the circumstances were very different then. Hazard, for one, was arguably in the form of his life at Chelsea and carried that momentum into the World Cup.
Eden Hazard appeared in high spirits during Belgium training this week
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Now, on the eve of their Group B curtain raisers, the 30-year-old faces the unusual situation of fans and pundits questioning whether he deserves a spot in Martinez’s team.
His career has been heading on a downward spiral after struggling to make an impact at Real Madrid and there have been calls for the LaLiga giants to sell their club-record £130m signing this summer.
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Hazard he will be desperate to prove he is not a spent force on the global stage as the aims to lead Belgium to their first-ever international success, having last finished as runners-up in 1980.
Mirror Sport takes a look at where it has gone wrong for the former Chelsea star and how he can turn things around at Euro 2020…
Lack of fitness and confidence
Eden Hazard has struggled since his £130m move to Real Madrid
(Image: Getty Images)
It speaks volumes that Hazard has only managed 43 appearances in a Real Madrid shirt, scoring five goals, in his two seasons in Spain.
For context, he only missed 21 games in the entire duration of his seven-spell in England, but he has already dwarfed that total in Madrid.
While injuries are often attributed to misfortune, Hazard will be the first to admit his troubles are not solely down to knocks and muscle problems.
Will Eden Hazard find form again for Belgium and fire them to glory at Euro 2020? Have your say in the comments section below.
Upon his arrival in Madrid for pre-season, it was claimed in the Spanish press he was eight kilos overweight. That represented a bad start to life and things haven't improved since.
He has featured only 21 times for Real Madrid this season, scoring four goals. That kind of form and lack of fitness would concern any international manager — and it will be down to Hazard to show his manager he can rediscover his best form at the Euros.
'Golden Generation' motivation
Belgium's current squad containing the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku is viewed as their 'Golden Generation'
Hazard is 30, De Bruyne 29 and Lukaku turns 28 on his next birthday in August. Just how many more opportunities will Belgium’s generation get to mark their careers with international success?
The time pressure is evident and after a fine run of form at international level, with only one defeat in their last 23 fixtures, it can no longer be denied that this Belgium squad should be challenging for honours.
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De Bruyne is one of the top three midfielders in the world and Lukaku is arriving into the tournament on the back of a 41-goal season with Inter Milan. Youri Tielemans, Thibaut Courtois and Toby Alderweireld are among the best in their respective positions too.
Hazard has scored 30 goals in 107 caps for his country, an impressive return for a player who doesn’t occupy a central striking role, and he has previously taken it upon himself to fire his side to glory.
If Belgium are to make history in this multi-nation tournament, they will need their talisman to play his part.
Eden Hazard won the FA Cup on his last appearance at Wembley in 2018
The last time Hazard rocked up at Wembley three years ago, he left as a champion. On July 11, he could repeat that trick.
Wembley has been a happy hunting ground for Hazard. It was here where he won his first domestic trophy with Chelsea in 2014-15 as the Blues took home the EFL Cup.
Then, it was his penalty which secured the FA Cup in 2018 for Chelsea with a 1-0 win over Manchester United in a man of the match display.
He had also starred in the semi-final victory over Southampton too, giving defenders the runaround as he danced past them.
His struggles in Spain are apparent, but a return to the familiar setting at Wembley will be on the cards if Belgium reach the semi-finals or final.
Having starred at the venue before, the playmaker will be eager to add some more glittering Wembley moments to his highlight reel.
A new role
Eden Hazard has played predominantly as a left winger in his career
With De Bruyne’s participation in the opening game looking doubtful, Belgium will need some inspiration in shaping their attacks.
Hazard often does his best work from the left-hand side, but with his outstanding dribbling ability, eye for a pass and peripheral vision, deploying him in a central role could benefit Belgium.
It may hand Jeremy Doku, the 19-year-old Rennes winger blessed with an abundance of pace, the chance to have a run at Russia’s slower defenders while Hazard can float in the free role.
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As players age and their pace naturally declines, the best attackers find a way to ensure they remain useful.
Cristiano Ronaldo used his hang-time and lethal finishing to convert himself into a central striker, while Lionel Messi often transforms into a deep-lying playmaker for Barcelona … perhaps the No.10 role will form part of Hazard’s final stages of his career.