Lionel Messi has been in superb form for Argentina at the ongoing 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil and has won the ‘Man of the Match’ awards in all four matches.
The Barcelona forward has scored in three of his side’s games, as they finished as Group F winners before going on to edge past Switzerland in the last 16.
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Next up for Messi and his Argentina teammates is a clash against the tournament’s so-called ‘dark horse’ Belgium, who have yet to hit top form.
Although the Red Devils finished the group stage with three wins from three and got the better of the USA 2-1 in the last 16, the European team have yet to impose themselves with many of their star players failing to perform to the best of their abilities.
Eden Hazard is one of them. The Chelsea winger came into the tournament on the back of a brilliant 2013-14 season, but so far he has shown just flashes of his brilliance.
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The 23-year-old former Lille star has been compared with Messi by some, although he himself has played down such praise (click here to read more).
Looking ahead to Belgium’s quarter-final match against Argentina at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasília on Saturday, Hazard underlined the significance of keeping Barcelona forward Messi in check, while hailing him as the best player in the world.
‘We know that the best player in the world is in their team’, Goal.com quotes him as saying. ‘[Their overall form] is good, but they have one very big player and he makes the difference in every game. If we can stop Messi, it will be easier’.
Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has faced Messi several times during his loan spell at Atletico Madrid in the last three years.
The Chelsea custodian also admits that the 27-year-old will be a massive threat.
‘As soon as he finds a way to shoot, he will shoot, so the only thing you can do as a goalkeeper is concentrate at all times’, said Courtois. ‘You can't think of anything else for one second because at that moment he will score’.
Argentina will head into Saturday’s encounter as the favourites, but Belgium will not make it easy for the South American giants. That is for sure.