Wilmots Fails to Get the Best from Eden Hazard and Belgium at the World Cup

Nick Miller@NickMiller79Featured ColumnistJuly 6, 2014

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Head coach Marc Wilmots of Belgium hugs Eden Hazard as he exits the game during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

This Belgium team were, of course, greatly hyped before the World Cup. A fine collection of young players were their version of the golden generation, following the likes of the Figo and Rui Costa era Portugal, and of course, the Beckham, Gerrard, Cole and Rooney England team.

This hype turned them from dark horses into genuine contenders, and an impressive qualifying campaign in which they sauntered through unbeaten, the only blemishes being two draws, only served to back up the suggestion that the Belgians were live contenders.

However, despite reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup and eventually going out to Argentina, not in itself a disgrace of any description, they were in truth pretty disappointing in Brazil. Fairly listless performances in the group stage earned narrow wins over Algeria, Russia and South Korea, before just holding on against a relatively ordinary USA side in the second round.

Of course, three group victories is not something to be sniffed at, especially when one considers the illustrious teams that crashed out with nary a whimper in the first round, but there was the constant sense that there should have been more from this Belgian side.

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Plenty of that was down to some truly listless performances by Eden Hazard. The Chelsea man was supposed to be Belgium's best player and creative fulcrum, but for long spells of the World Cup he was simply anonymous, a passenger who looked like he wanted to turn on his creativity when he felt like it.

Elko Born wrote about Hazard's disappointing performance elsewhere on Bleacher Report, but while he was obviously very disappointing, the finger of blame for their lacklustre exit must be pointed at coach Marc Wilmots.

Wilmots had at his disposal perhaps the finest collection of talent ever to be gathered in Belgium, but his indecision and tinkering made them listless and disjointed.

Indeed, while losing to a side like Argentina with one of the greatest players of all time in their ranks is hardly something to wring one's hands over, Alejandro Sabella's team were not especially impressive in this game.

Indeed, Wilmots himself seemed to recognise this, quoted by the Guardian as saying:

We were not impressed by the Argentinians. They are just an ordinary team. It’s not a missed opportunity. Do you think Argentina played a good match? People complained about our performances in our first three matches but this is what football is all about.

I’m not saying Argentina can’t be world champions: they have Di María and Messi, two of the top five players in the world. But how many shots did they have?

Seriously. If we’d played this way we’d have been destroyed by the Belgian press. We have a bit to learn. We lacked a little something, and sometimes we didn’t make the right choices.

It was a curious defence of their exit, because by claiming Argentina were "ordinary," Wilmots simply underlined his own under-performance. If indeed they were so "ordinary," then surely this Belgium team with their myriad talents should have done more against them.

Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

The way Wilmots managed his team throughout the tournament was curious, chopping and changing players with seemingly little logic, highlighting his indecision by bringing in players who had done well in flashes of substitute appearances, such as Marouane Fellaini, who started against Russia having scored against Algeria from the bench, and ditto Divock Origi.

This, of course, was perhaps a tournament too soon for this collection of players, and France 2016 might be a better time to judge whether they have fulfilled their potential, and indeed whether Wilmots has made the most of it.

However, it is difficult to argue that in Brazil 2014, Wilmots has failed to get the most from his star player in Hazard, and indeed from the whole of this Belgium team.


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