Belgium captain Eden Hazard was a noticeable absentee from Tuesday’s training session as his team prepared for its quarterfinal match against Wales at the European Championship.
Coach Marc Wilmots said that Hazard, who inspired Belgium to its 4-0 victory over Hungary on Sunday, had a muscle problem.
”Eden felt a slight spasm in the quadriceps at halftime against Hungary,” Wilmots said. ”He is now following an individual program … and will be back again the day after tomorrow. He will be 100 percent, no problem.”
Defender Thomas Vermaelen was also absent but he is suspended for Friday’s match.
After a slow start to the tournament, Belgium is finally living up to its favorites tag. The manner in which it swept aside Hungary in the round of 16 has put the team firmly back to the top of the list of contenders.
Belgium reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup two years ago, losing to Argentina, and is keen to go even further in this tournament.
”I don’t want to belong to any category, we simply play each match to win it,” Wilmots said. ”We’ve had two quarterfinals in four years, that’s already not bad. And now we have just one obsession, to reach the final.
”But between what you want and what you dream …. We’ve seen in the past few days that there is no easy match. Will France beat Iceland? I’m not so sure. You have to be wary of everyone.”
First up for Belgium is Wales and star forward Gareth Bale, who has scored three goals in the tournament.
”He has a free role, we will have to play compact,” Wilmots said. ”But it’s not just one player we have to worry about. Everyone knows his role well and his growth in power.”
Against Hungary, Belgium missed several chances before scoring a late flurry of goals.
Wilmots made it clear that his players ”need to be more clinical, so they can be at ease quicker.”
Belgium’s forwards have lightning pace, but Wilmots insists his side will not sit back and wait to hit Wales on the counterattack.
”I’m going to watch some Wales matches this afternoon,” Wilmots said. ”But from their past matches, Wales will sit back and wait for us with five defenders. We could also wait and see how they will react but that’s not part of our philosophy.
”We have to be calm and patient. We have to take our game to Wales and try to pierce their defense.”