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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku.
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Hazard plays down Lukaku criticism after accusing striker of 'hiding up front'
“Even though we have good players, it is not easy for us to play with a man short.”

EDEN HAZARD DOES not regret accusing Romelu Lukaku of “hiding up front” before the striker’s two goals in Belgium’s 3-0 World Cup win over Panama.

The Chelsea playmaker, who captained the Red Devils in their Russia 2018 opener, was less than impressed by the first-half display of a man who netted 27 times for his club side last season.

Some home truths had the desired impact, with Lukaku going on to net twice in an important victory for Roberto Martinez’s side which has them in control of Group G.

Hazard insists the criticism was never intended to be personal, with those inside the Belgium camp still united as they endeavour to bring the best out of themselves and one another.

“As the captain, even if I am not the captain I can talk. On the pitch I try to give my best, If I can help players to be better, I will,” Hazard told Sky Sports News.

“I just told Romelu if we want to win the game we need him — not just as a scorer to score goals, but we want him to be involved in the build-up. We just talked normally and we won the game in the end so it was fine.”

Hazard has spoken out after revealing to reporters after the Panama game that he had spoken with Lukaku at the interval about his lacklustre display.

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World Cup 2018 - Belgium vs Panama DPA / PA Images Lukaku and Hazard celebrate. DPA / PA Images / PA Images

He said: “I told Romelu at half-time that we needed him. He was hiding away on his own up front in the first half. Even though we have good players, it is not easy for us to play with a man short.

“Once he got involved in the game, as if by magic, he scored two goals. I hope he will understand. He did not have a bad game. He scored twice, so everyone is happy. It is good for his confidence.

“But I want him to try to get more involved in the game, especially during the first half – as we know what he can do.”

Belgium are next in action against Tunisia on Saturday, with that contest presenting Lukaku with another opportunity to add to a goal tally which has him two efforts behind Golden Boot leader Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal.

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