Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Belgium v Finland: Hazard backs squad to cope without Kompany

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 30 May 2016

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Stand-in captain Eden Hazard is adamant Belgium can cope without Vincent Kompany at Euro 2016 ahead of their friendly with Finland on Wednesday.

The clash at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels is Belgium’s penultimate match before the tournament, where skipper Hazard will hope for better fortune following a tough club season with Chelsea.

The 2014-15 PFA Player of the Year managed only six goals as his Chelsea team meekly surrendered the Premier League title, limping to a 10th place finish.

But a thigh injury to Manchester City centre-back Kompany has seen Hazard elevated to captain.

Yet Hazard believes the world’s second-ranked nation can cope without the leadership of Kompany because of the quality in the squad.

“Obviously we’ve lost our captain, the leader of the team – that’s not easy, like France who’ve lost Raphael Varane,” he said.

“But, honestly, we have quality in defence and everyone in the team is ready.

“Nearly everyone is at 100 per cent, we’re not worried. And up front, we have maybe the best generation.”

However, the winger does not see Belgium, who have won six of their last seven games, as favourites for the tournament in France.

“Favourites? No, I don’t think so,” he added.

“France are playing at home, Spain, Germany and then maybe we’re just behind.”

Following his goalscoring exploits in Atletico Madrid’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid, Yannick Carrasco is now available to head coach Marc Wilmots, who must finalise his squad for the Euros on Tuesday.

In Carrasco’s absence, Belgium fought back from a goal down to beat Switzerland in Geneva on Saturday, goals from Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne turning matters in their favour.

Finland are unlikely to provide as stiff of a challenge, having lost all four friendlies without scoring a goal since Hans Backe took charge at the start of the year.

The Scandinavians failed to qualify for the Euros, finishing fourth in their qualifying group behind Northern Ireland, Romania and Hungary, and, after this fixture, will face Belgium’s Group E opponents Italy next Monday.

Backe’s men will be keen to find form ahead of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, where they also face an uphill task having been drawn against Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine and Turkey – all of whom will compete for the European title in France.

Like their opponents, Finland are without their regular captain for this match, with Sampdoria’s Niklas Moisander yet to feature for Backe.

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