Eden Hazard joked his best will come later in the World Cup after his important role in Belgium’s 3-0 win over Panama on Monday.
Hazard combined with Kevin De Bruyne to set up Romelu Lukaku’s first goal and teed up the Manchester United striker for his second, as title contenders Belgium opened their Group G campaign in tough but victorious fashion at Fisht Stadium in Sochi.
A lot of the pre-match build-up centred on Hazard and his form, with Belgium and Chelsea team-mate Thibaut Courtois saying the reported Real Madrid target was in the best shape of his career.
Asked about Courtois’ comments afterwards, a smiling Hazard said: “He wants to give me confidence!
“No, I do feel in a good moment. The pre-World Cup was good and I had some good games in the friendlies. I was good today but I can do better. I think you will see the best of Eden Hazard later.
He added: “I can do better. [I got a] nice assist, but usually when I pass to Romelu, he scores, so it’s not that difficult to get an assist sometimes. It was a good performance by the team, but we can all do better.”
Hazard walked through the mixed zone with his left leg strapped after receiving some physical treatment from debutants Panama.
The 27-year-old attacker was targeted by Panama throughout the first half, the Belgian superstar noticeably hobbling after a robust challenge.
Hazard, unperturbed, emerged from the interval and helped inspire Belgium following a frustrating and scoreless opening period, Panama’s stubborn resistance broken by Dries Mertens’ stunning volley at the start of the second half.
“We knew it would be physical. People were saying that Belgium would win every game easily but it’s not like this. They have good players, strong players, they play to their strengths, and that’s why we had some little problems in the first half. But at the end of the game, we won 3-0, so we have to be happy,” Hazard continued.
“I think they gave everything. When the ball was between a Panama and Belgium player, the Panama player won the duel. In this type of game, you need to be stronger than the team in front of you and we were in the second half.
“We spoke at half-time and said that we need to keep playing. The pitch was a little bit slow, so it wasn’t easy to find other players or play the ball quickly. But we kept trying and we scored some goals in the end.”