Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Forget Bale, It's Doing the Team Talk That Worries Quiet Man Hazard; Coverage in Association With

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Forget Bale, It's Doing the Team Talk That Worries Quiet Man Hazard; Coverage in Association With

Article excerpt

EDEN HAZARD may have boosted his reputation in France as he prepares to lead Belgium into a quarter-final against Wales but he admits giving a team talk is still his biggest challenge, writes Chris Hatherall.

The shy Chelsea midfielder has been handed the armband for Euro 2016 at the age of 25 and has responded in style with four strong performances and a goal-of-the-tournament contender in the last-16 victory over Hungary.

That is a big contrast to his displays at Stamford Bridge in a difficult season in which he failed to score for the Blues in the Premier League until hitting two goals against Bournemouth in April.

But while his performances on the pitch since then have been outstanding, he admits finding the right thing to say to team-mates before matches is proving more difficult.

Belgium face Wales tomorrow in Lille, the town where Hazard began his career, and the squad are waiting for some inspirational pre-match words.

The winger said: "It's a big honour to be captain and I'm very appreciative of it. But talking is the hard part for me. I am not a big talker.

"At the start it would make people laugh if I had to do a speech because I'm not really that used to talking a lot on the pitch or in the dressing room. It's something I've had to learn. But I try to do my best and I try not to say the same thing every match!" Hazard, once labelled as a troublemaker at Chelsea when Jose Mourinho was sacked, has responded well after a difficult time at the Bridge in which he felt he was misrepresented.

Being captain of his country at such a young age has helped him mature.

"I have changed a bit not just because I'm captain but because I am more experienced in international football," said Hazard, who has scored 14 goals in 69 games for his country.

"But I do take my role to heart, I try to do the best I can all the time, on the pitch and off it.

"As I say, I'm not always someone who makes a lot of noise off the pitch and motivates the players but when I'm on the pitch I try to be in charge on the ball and set an example for my team-mates."

He certainly did that in the 4-0 victory against Hungary, producing an allround performance which many people described as one of the best of the tournament so far. …

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