Eden Hazard admitted on Saturday that Belgium’s best chance to win the World Cup had come and gone but said they still have the quality and experience to lift the trophy in Qatar.
Belgium, who finished third at the tournament in Russia in 2018, are still ranked second in the world but many of the much-vaunted “Golden Generation” are now in their 30s.
“To be fair I think we had a better chance to win four years go,” admitted 31-year-old Hazard, speaking on the eve of Sunday’s match against Morocco.
“The team was better four years ago but still we have the quality to win games and to win the competition. We have a few guys, they are a bit older now but we have experience and the best goalkeeper in the world (Thibaut Courtois).
“We have one of the best midfields in the world, right now. We have good strikers. We have the team and I think it’s just the desire to want to win, and the mentality.”
He added: “Belgium can win the World Cup if we are in form. If we are not it will be tough.”
The Real Madrid forward said he was not over-worried by Belgium’s struggles in their opening Group F match against Canada, which they won 1-0, but he urged the team to play without fear.
“The first match you always have a bit of fear, you don’t always want the ball,” he said. “Now we need to get over that. We need to not be afraid to dribble, to play the killer pass. That’s what was missing in the first match.”
Hazard has struggled to repeat the form he showed at Chelsea since he moved to Spain in 2019 but he said he was able to brush off criticism over his performances.
“There has always been criticism,” he said. “Even when you play well you get criticised. I just try to focus on playing the best I can for my country and I’ll give everything I can.”
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was relaxed about his side’s form, highlighting the lack of preparation time before the tournament in Qatar.
“Slowly you’re going to see teams getting ready after three games in the tournament,” he said.
“So rather than having that preparation for a World Cup, for a major tournament where you have three friendlies and you have four weeks to get everybody in the optimal condition, the teams need to get ready while they are in the tournament and that’s dangerous because it can cost you points.”
Martinez gave an update on the fitness of leading striker Romelu Lukaku, who is recovering from a thigh injury.
The Spaniard said the forward was not expected to be available until the third group game against Croatia, in line with previous expectations.
“He’s ahead of what he should be,” said Martinez. “I don’t expect him to be involved tomorrow unless something goes extremely well today.”