Eden Hazard hit the 100-cap landmark with the Belgian national team on Sunday and here we help him celebrate by looking back at some of his best moments for the Red Devils.
Our no.10 completed his international century in Belgium’s 2-0 win over Cyprus as qualifying for Euro 2020 got under way over the weekend, marking the occasion by opening the scoring early on.
That took his total for Belgium to 30 goals and 26 assists since making his debut for his country as a substitute in a 1-1 friendly draw with Luxembourg in November 2008. Thankfully, he has enjoyed some much more memorable occasions during his international career since that disappointing draw.
Despite his exciting form with Lille and almost fanatical praise from fans and pundits alike in France at the time, it took Hazard a while to win over his early international managers, who felt his performances for the Red Devils did not match those at club level.
That meant he had to wait a whole year before he finally got the chance to play a full match for Belgium, but he certainly took the chance to make his point with both hands. In another friendly, this time at home against Hungary, Hazard ran the show for Dick Advocaat’s side, setting up Marouane Fellaini and Thomas Vermaelen for the first two goals of a 3-0 victory.
However, it seemed he still had to fully convince his bosses, and it wasn’t until 2012, around the time he moved to Stamford Bridge, that Hazard really started to become a key figure for Belgium. That came during their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup, and he really cemented his place in the side with his performances in a crucial double-header with Macedonia in March 2013.
After getting up to convert a penalty himself after being fouled in a 2-0 away win, he secured Belgium a vital three points in the home game four days later, using his skill to breeze past two defenders before finishing a fine goal with his left foot to give them a 1-0 win.
Having not scored in consecutive international matches before those fixtures, that also meant he had found the net in three games in a row, after opening the scoring in a friendly win over Slovakia the previous month.
That helped Belgium book their place at the 2014 World Cup, where Hazard was again a key member of the team, and Divock Origi’s 88th-minute winner against Russia, which booked their place in the knockout stages, was made by Eden, breaking down the left wing and cutting the ball back for a simple finish.
In a turnaround from his early days being under-appreciated with the national team, Hazard was now an integral member of the squad and one of their leaders. That meant, with skipper Vincent Kompany increasingly suffering from injury problems, Hazard was given the captain’s armband for the first time in a friendly away to France, the country which had provided much of his footballing education, in June 2015. He certainly seemed to enjoy the occasion, scoring the decisive goal from the penalty spot as Belgium edged a thrilling match 4-3.
He was captaining the side regularly by the time Euro 2016 came around, as Belgium made their first appearance at a European Championship since hosting the tournament in 2000. Hazard was at his best in France, setting up goals in four consecutive matches to finish as the competition’s highest assist-maker, alongside Aaron Ramsey, and scoring himself in what was the highlight of his and Belgium’s Euros, showing inspirational form in the 4-0 thrashing of Hungary in the last 16.
However, things seem to just keep getting better for both Eden and his national team, as the 2018 World Cup provided both his fondest memories in a Red Devils shirt and the country’s best-ever performance at the tournament.
After scoring twice in the 5-2 thumping of Tunisia in the group stage, he was instrumental in Belgium becoming the first side to come back from two goals down in a World Cup knockout match in over 50 years, setting up Fellaini’s equaliser as they shocked Japan 3-2.
The best was yet to come, though, as he overshadowed Neymar and co. in a 2-1 win over Brazil in the quarter-finals, in the game he highlights as his best moment in international football, successfully completing all 10 of his dribble attempts in that match, the most recorded in a World Cup fixture since 1966.
Although Belgium were then narrowly eliminated by eventual champions France in the semis, there was still more to come for Hazard, as he scored in the third-place play-off win over England, the game which ensured a Belgium squad came home from a World Cup with medals for the first time. He was handed the Silver Ball award for the tournament’s second-best player.