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Belgium putting a Hazard in front of US in Brazil

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 30, 2014 at 4:52 pm •  Published: June 30, 2014

SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — Eden Hazard knows it's time to live up to his name at the World Cup, and to make sure the United States realizes what that stands for.

The Belgian playmaker is aware his country is counting on a match-long display of Hazard dazzle against the United States on Tuesday.

"In this World Cup, I have yet to play a great match, even if I had good moves which were decisive," Hazard acknowledged.

And the instructions from coach Marc Wilmots for Tuesday's game are clear because he expects Hazard "to take charge of the match" and "impose himself as a leader."

Unlike the players who have confirmed their star status at the World Cup, like Neymar for Brazil and Messi for Argentina, Hazard is still finding his range. Within Europe he is one of the half dozen best creative players, but at the World Cup so far he hasn't consistently delivered on that potential.

Belgium has escaped with two victories in the games Hazard was starting, each time with the playmaker providing decisive assists. In both games, he was playing below par until those big moments.

"They are asking me to be decisive, and it has been tough," Hazard said. The responsibility falling on the 23-year-old Chelsea playmaker could be even bigger on Tuesday if Vincent Kompany, captain and undisputed leader of team, is still sidelined with an injured groin.

"A lot is asked from a guy who has already given us a lot," said Wilmots, even though the coach himself has publicly said more was expected from Hazard.

"I am sure that we will see a great Eden Hazard who will be decisive again," midfielder Axel Witsel said.

Time and again in group play, Hazard's creativity was stifled by defensive lineups which contained him until they were too fatigued.

"It was tough to express myself," Hazard said. "There was very little space against teams that defended fully." He expects it to change on Tuesday because unlike the group matches, teams have to come looking for a goal to go through.

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