Belgium coach Roberto Martinez says he hopes Eden Hazard is able to stay fit and play more regularly for his club as he outlined his plans ahead of next World Cup finals.
Hazard captained the side as Belgium qualified for Qatar 2020 with a 3-1 victory over Estonia in its penultimate qualifier in Brussels on Saturday.
France, Belgium post wins, qualify for FIFA World Cup 2022
But the 30-year-old attacker has struggled to get game time at Real Madrid, even after recovering from a series of long-standing injuries, and this has been a source of concern in Belgium.
“I especially hope that Eden Hazard remains fully fit. And that every player at his club can show the best of himself, because the competition for places in the squad is huge,” said Martinez.
Hazard is one of the golden generation who have kept Belgium top of the FIFA rankings since 2018 but been unable to deliver a major trophy.
It was the semifinalist at the last World Cup in Russia but disappointed at the European Championship this year with a quarterfinal exit and finished fourth at last month’s Nations League finals in Italy.
But it has been clinical in qualifying.
“You know, we’re in a situation where we always have to win everything,” said Martinez.
“That is what the outside world expects and it creates extra pressure. I’m very happy that our players are handling this well. They always go for it. Every player is always in a special situation at his club, but with the national team everyone pulls in the same direction. That’s a good mindset.
“We have now played 27 qualifiers under my reign. We won 25 of those. We should be happy about that. That is why we should really celebrate this qualification. That is unusual.”
Martinez also outlined his preparatory plans for next year.
“We will work in different phases. First of all, we will go to Wales on Tuesday to win,” he said of the team’s last qualifier in Cardiff.
“We have that responsibility, because Wales are still fighting for the play-offs.
“In March, the intention is to only call up players with less than 50 caps. During that training camp, we will be able to determine their role within the team.
“After that, there will be six more matches at the highest level in the Nations League. Four in June, two in September. Those duels will be the perfect preparation for the World Cup,” Martinez added.