Eden Hazard

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Belgium Looks Strong in 2014 World Cup Qualifying

Ten long years have passed since the European nation of Belgium last played in a major international tournament.  They were once regulars and boasted strong teams.  However, after an abysmal decade, the “Red Devils” look to be in serious contention for a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and feature a squad filled to the brim with exciting young talent.

The most dazzling of such players is Eden Hazard.  After establishing himself as a star in Lille of France’s Ligue 1, Hazard moved to Chelsea this past summer and has emerged as a brilliant young player. The winger has great speed and touch on the ball that terrorizes defenders.  In just seven EPL matches this year, Hazard has already notched 6 assists and scored 2 goals.  He also has drawn penalty fouls on several occasions.  At only 21, the sky is the limit for this wonderful playmaker.

But that is merely the tip of the iceberg.  Belgium has a set of young, fearsome strikers in Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke.  Lukaku is a Chelsea player on loan at West Bromwich, and has scored several important goals for the club.  He is a large, physical presence that many in London hope will resemble former Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba.  Benteke is also a strong and big striker and recently moved to Aston Villa.  He has already opened his scoring account there and also scored the opener in Belgium’s 3-0 victory in Serbia this past weekend.  A third striker in Kevin Mirallas is very capable:  He also scored in Serbia, and now plays for Everton after he led the Greek league in scoring at Olympiakos.

Another Everton player who is vital for Belgium is Marouane Fellaini. The massive central midfielder with a big Afro has been a great physical presence in the center of the pitch.  Also, he has a wonderful ability to score the occasional goal, like his winner for Everton when they beat Manchester United on the league’s opening day.

Defensively, Belgium is also stacked with talent.  Center backs Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen both captain elite Premier League clubs in Manchester City and Arsenal.  Jan Vertonghen is another great defender and recently signed with Tottenham.

What makes this team so exciting for now is that nearly all of these players are under the age of 25.  They are all growing up together and just getting their careers started at major clubs.  Manager Marc Wilmots must be licking his chops in preparation for what could be the best feast of football that Belgium has ever delighted upon.  Their 2014 World Cup qualifying group is winnable for the team with only Croatia and Serbia as main threats, and they have started the group well, beating both Serbia and Wales and drawing with Croatia.  They next play Scotland and will surely be eyeing three points.

Marc Wilmots was captain the last time Belgium was at a World Cup in 2002, and is now their manager.  Hopefully he can help create some magic within this squad because on talent alone, they could be a major threat to any team hoping for World Cup glory in Brazil.

Chelsea Just Keeps on Winning

The London club has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders this season, winning 6 matches and drawing only once in the early stages of the English Premier League campaign.  Many predictors’ worries over the Chelsea squad came down to whether or not Fernando Torres would be able to keep up the goal-scoring to the levels that Didier Drogba had before his departure from the club this past summer, but Torres has played in wonderful form.

Torres has scored four goals this year and looks to be back on the right path after he struggled so much when he first joined the club nearly two full seasons ago.  Residing under Drogba’s shell, Torres went countless hours without goals and was even benched during big matches, but this season as Chelsea’s single striker the Spaniard is looking to be solid.

Another Spanish player who is taking aim at the Premiership is Juan Mata, who arrived at the club last year.  He has become the creative force in the midfield that is giving teams fits across England.  The midfield is full of playmakers including recent buys Eden Hazard and Oscar.  Both players are young but incredibly talented.  Hazard has scored twice and added four assists.  Oscar has yet to score in a Premier League match but did net a fantastic goal against Juventus in the Champions League.

The young midfield trio has been so spectacular that Frank Lampard has actually been relegated to the bench on occasion to make way.  He does play well when called upon and is second on the team with three goals.  However, he is aging at 34 and the team is being smart by beginning the process of replacing him.

The one danger with excitement surrounds the teams they have played so far this season.  Although they did beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates just over a week ago, they haven’t played very well against big teams and have enjoyed a rather easy start to the campaign.

How Chelsea fares against Manchester United and Manchester City will show us what caliber of team they possess and I still fear that Chelsea will struggle against strong defensive teams.  But nevertheless, the team’s start needs to be commended.  They have beaten all the clubs that they are supposed to beat and that is the toughest task in the EPL, so Chelsea should enjoy themselves and feel positive about how this season develops.

Following the international break, the schedule is set to become harder.  Chelsea next travels to Tottenham before a double slate of matches against Manchester United, one in the Premier League and one in the Capital One Cup.  Fortunately, Chelsea will have the home support of Stamford Bridge, but they will need their fans’ support as they embark on the tough matches ahead this year.