We take a look inside the Belgium camp ahead of Russia 2018 with the help of their captain, Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard.
Belgium end the group stages of the World Cup with a mouth-watering clash against England on June 28 in Kaliningrad.
The fixture pits some familiar Premier League faces against each other, with players from both nations putting club allegiances to one side in pursuit of international glory.
Sky Sports reporter Patrick Davison caught up with Hazard earlier this year to discuss the make-up of Belgian squad, and he’s given the low down on the players who stand between England and the knockout stages.
HAZARD: “Fellaini is a fantastic guy and player, with his style. He is not just an option player. I knew him 10 years ago, he has ability on the ball. Sometimes when you’re tall or big, you don’t know what to do with the ball, but he has skills. He is a good player, a good man and gives everything for the team. That is the most important thing in football. He is like me, we are special, that is why we are friends.”
HAZARD: “For sure [he is like a presidential figure]. He is the captain – when Vincent Kompany is talking, everyone is listening. In Belgium we call him ‘Vince the Prince’, and it’s true because when he is talking, everyone is focused on him.
0:41 Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne expects his Manchester City team-mate Vincent Kompany to win his race to be fit for the World Cup.
“When we need motivation, he gives it to us. When we need someone talking on the pitch, he talks. He’s the kind of guy when you do something bad and he’s behind you, you know about it. That’s why is special.”
HAZARD: “After I came to my first Belgium training session 10 years ago, I asked my mum and dad if they’d heard of Mousa Dembele. I’d never heard about him because he was playing in the Netherlands and I was focused on the French league. I said to my parents, ‘This guy is unbelievable’. He’s strong and he’s got skills. The only problem is that he could score more goals – sometimes the ball goes far from the goal!
“But he’s a fantastic player, it’s good to play with him and not so good to play against him. When you play in the Premier League, everyone says the same thing, Mousa Dembele is one of the best in the Premier League. He is humble, he’s a good guy, he never does anything bad on the pitch and he gives everything. All of the players love him.”
HAZARD: “He is always with Mousa. They are good friends and they make some jokes together. When we go with the national team they are together. That’s why they don’t want to move from Tottenham, I think! They are very close. Jan and Mousa make some jokes and it’s always good to have players like this in your team. But when Jan is on the pitch, he wants to win every game a fights for all of the balls. His left foot is magic, he’s scored goals for Belgium and Tottenham. He’s a fantastic player.”
HAZARD: “When he wakes up he goes straight in the bathroom for one hour to do his hair. You can see on the pitch that his hair is always good, that’s the kind of guy he is. Toby and Jan are one of the best defensive partnerships in the Premier League. Toby is one of the best defenders in the world, he can play long balls, he defends very well. We need this kind of player in our team for Belgium.”
HAZARD: “You can see every week how good he is. He is confident, he’s scoring goals, he’s powerful and he’s very good with his head. He’s been confident for Manchester United, I hope he brings that to the World Cup for Belgium. If I could have asked him anything I would have told him to stop scoring goals for United and save them for the national team!”
Kevin De Bruyne
HAZARD: “After me, he is one of the best players in the Premier League, for sure! He’s fantastic. He’s clever on and off the pitch. You can talk football with him but also about life. He’s in full confidence as he’s playing in the best team in the Premier League this year. When he’s on the pitch with good players, he’s one of the best in the world.
“Every time he has the ball at his feet he can do something magic – he doesn’t score a lot of goals but he can create something with just one movement or pass. It’s simple, he’s a special player. Sometimes you can see Belgian players scoring goals which could be bad for you, but I enjoy to watch players, especially when they come from my country. We have a lot of players who are on fire.”
0:31 Belgium internationals Thibaut Courtois and Kevin de Bruyne hope their World Cup match against England will be to decide who wins the group. Thibaut Courtois
HAZARD: “I’ve been lucky to play with him for the past four years. For me he is the best goalkeeper in the world. He’s the kind of goalkeeper that can have nothing to do for 90 minutes and then, at the end of the game, he saves one ball and we win the game. That’s why he is special. He’s the best in the world, he’s still young. I am happy to play with him. “