Belgium coach Roberto Martinez sees ‘joy, energy’ in Eden Hazard


Belgium coach Roberto Martinez believes playmaker Eden Hazard is in good spirits and is not worried about his lack of minutes this season at Real Madrid ahead of Nations League games against Wales and the Netherlands.

Hazard could play a key role for Belgium at the World Cup in Qatar, but he will have to prove his form and fitness with the national team as he made just one start in Madrid and played just under 100 minutes in La Liga. This campaign.

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“He’s good,” Martinez told reporters Wednesday. “Did he play enough minutes?’ You always get the same question, but he never missed a practice and was great behind the scenes.

“There’s a lack of minutes and game time, but he’s in good spirits and eager to be on the pitch. I see an energy and joy around Eden that I didn’t see six months ago.”

Martinez admits the two games during the international break are crucial for the 31-year-old to be ready for Qatar, but Hazard insists playing a full 90 minutes is unlikely.

“We will see how he is with the national team, we will evaluate him and then we have seven weeks before the World Cup,” the coach said. “I didn’t set a target for us [of minutes for him to play].

“It depends on the pace of the game and if we can see him develop from the 60-minute mark. It will be decided on how the game goes and his performance.”

Martinez is expecting a tough clash with Wales in Brussels on Thursday as Belgium look to keep their Nations League final hopes alive, trailing league leaders the Netherlands by three points.

“They have a system that has been building for a long time. They are a team that is extra competitive and qualified for the World Cup,” Martinez said.

“We expect the same, high-intensity game, a bit British [in style]. They play through you, are direct and put a lot of pressure in the box. You can never relax against a team like them.”

Belgium opens Group F action at the World Cup against Canada on November 23.


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