The number ten received possession on the left wing, danced inside the despairing challenges of desperate defenders and raced towards goal, leaving a trail of havoc and causing the crowd to catch their collective breath.
It was a thrilling performance to illuminate the night sky in Kazan and thrill the souls of the millions of fans watching at home on television all over the world, showing once again that this player possesses a special talent.
However, this time we are not talking about Neymar.
The flamboyant Brazilian star headed into his team’s World Cup quarter-final against Belgium as the name on everybody’s lips. But by the end of the contest, he had been thoroughly outshone by the player wearing the same number at the other end of the pitch: Eden Hazard.
While Neymar – looking well below 100 per cent fit – laboured badly during the first half and saw his attempt at a late revival snuffed out by a brilliant save from Thibaut Courtois, Hazard sparkled throughout.
Helped along by a Brazilian midfield that was conspicuous by its absence, he combined with fellow marauder Kevin De Bruyne to pose a constant stream of problems to the opposition back line, setting a new World Cup record by attempting and completing ten dribbles over the course of the game (Neymar, by comparison, made just three).
Although he did not contribute directly to either of his team’s goals in the mesmerising 2-1 win, the danger posed by Hazard is reflected in another stat as he was fouled on seven occasions – and that often looked like the only way of stopping him.
He showed incredible levels of stamina, as well, managing to maintain his ability to carry the ball at pace right until the end, regularly frustrating Brazil’s attempted comeback by keeping possession for his team and taking the ball into the opposition half during the frantic final few minutes.
There’s no doubt about it: in the battle of number tens in Kazan, Hazard reigned supreme, leaving Neymar trailing in his wake.
All of this begs the question: exactly how good is Eden Hazard?
Clearly, he has been among the game’s top attacking performers for several years now, ever since springing to global prominence by inspiring Lille’s unlikely French league and cup double in 2011.
His form in France led to a big-money move to Chelsea and he has performed with consistent excellence for the London team, playing a full role in two Premier League title triumphs and scoring a healthy tally of 89 goals in 300 games for the Blues.
So Hazard is good. We all know that. But could he still be one of the very best? Or even the best of them all?
The last few weeks have been full of talk that thirty-somethings Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, after disappointing World Cup campaigns, are ready to relinquish their crown as the greatest two players in the world.
The common understanding for several years has been that Neymar will eventually depose them, although he is now being speedily pursued by PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe.
But what about Hazard?
On the evidence of Friday night’s thriller, the Belgian livewire is capable of outshining both Neymar and Mbappe, so perhaps he should be given a little more prominence in the conversation about the next greatest player in the world.
In truth, though, that will only happen if he leaves Chelsea. The Stamford Bridge outfit are a big club, of course, but they are not a mega-club. The best player in the world never plays for Chelsea; he plays, with inexorable inevitability, for either Barcelona or Real Madrid.
There’s a common view among little Englanders that Messi’s achievements should be downgraded because he has “never done it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke.”
Well, considering La Liga’s near total dominance of the biggest European prizes over the last few years, perhaps that question should be reversed: it’s all well and good watching Hazard prosper against Watford, but could he do it on a wild and windy Wednesday in Vigo?
This is a crucial time in Hazard’s career. At the age of 27, he is right at his peak and his stock will soon start to fall. With Belgium’s World Cup progress raising his profile higher than ever, there will never be a better time for him to grab the biggest move of them all from a position of strength.
And he is needed at both clubs. Barcelona, after missing out on Antoine Griezmann, could use Hazard’s pace and penetration to enliven an attack which is becoming too predictable (Ousmane Dembele should also fulfil that role, but nobody knows whether he is ready).
Real, of course, appear to be on the verge of losing Ronaldo and potentially Gareth Bale as well. It’s clearly time to rejuvenate the Bernabeu attacking ranks, and until now the question has been whether president Florentino Perez will land Neymar or Mbappe.
Perhaps, though, it will be neither: perhaps this is Eden Hazard’s time to become a true megastar.
It was a familiar setting for England at a major tournament. One game into Euro 2016 and the knives were out, most of them pointing menacingly at the self-proclaimed ‘Hated One’.
A poor performance in a 1-1 draw with Russia during the Group B opener in France saw Raheem Sterling endure the brunt of the criticism.
The consistently polarising figure took to Instagram in the aftermath: “Really unlucky today, on a good team performance really deserved the win, but we go again. Proud of all the boys #England #raheemsterling #TheHatedOne.”
It only served to antagonise the angry mob and the Three Lions would unconvincingly sneak through a relatively comfortable group before being sent home with their tails between their legs by minnows Iceland in the round of 16.
Two years on, and the mood around the England camp couldn’t be more different at the World Cup. Yet, Sterling – tipped to be a key player ahead of the tournament – is still the most castigated individual.
The fact he divides opinion like no other player in the current England set-up is especially intriguing because the reasoning behind it is flimsy at best. Forcing his way out of Liverpool in 2015 could be identified as a turning point for Sterling.
A disappointing debut campaign with Manchester City followed, one which saw his £50 million purchase regularly alluded to and subsequent performances with England ensured even a casual breakfast run would provoke admonishment, never mind a striking tattoo.
After 23 goals and 12 assists across all competitions with City in the past season though, Sterling seems to have turned over a new leaf under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. Naturally, expectations of him were high going into the World Cup but he’s yet to live up to them.
Calls for Gareth Southgate to drop the 23-year-old in favour of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford have grown in decibel level but are largely misguided.
Those expecting Sterling to replicate his displays with City were always going to be kept waiting. The Citizens operate in a vastly different system and the Englishman’s role in it is hardly similar to what’s asked of him with the national team.
At City, the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva have the guile and ingenuity in midfield to pull the strings and find Sterling’s darting runs in behind the defence with surgical precision. Such midfield maestros don’t exist in the England set-up and the onus is instead on Sterling to make inroads or create space, on and off the ball.
While it may look as if he often zips around without purpose, he is executing a key role for his team-mates – particularly Harry Kane. Given the lack of creativity through the middle, Sterling is tasked with pulling defenders out of position and that involves a lot of dummy runs as much as it does carrying the ball himself and attracting players towards him.
Jesse Lingard deservedly took the plaudits for his superb strike against Panama during a 6-1 win but few noticed the give and go with Sterling which set it up as the City star drew in three defenders in the process. His ability to disorientate defences will be absolutely key against a stubborn Sweden back-line.
This is not to say that he’s had a sensational tournament. There’s definitely plenty of scope for improvement and he’ll want to make more of an impact than his subtle contributions to the system, as crucial as they are.
Firing his country into the semi-finals would be a great start.
Belgium goalkeeper Courtois got involved in a bizarre spat over his England counterpart when he suggested, because he is taller, he might have saved Adnan Januzaj‘s winner when the two sides met in the World Cup last week.
Januazaj scored the only goal as Belgium beat England 1-0 in a group encounter in Kaliningrad.
Courtois feels his comments have been taken out of context to make it seem as if he was belittling the Everton player.
Speaking after Belgium’s semi-final win over Brazil, the Chelsea keeper told BBC Sport: “This thing about Jordan – I want to say and clarify it because I heard a lot of stuff.
“I never mocked his height, I want to make that clear, because I would never mock the height of a goalkeeper. I think he is a great goalkeeper. He proved that this year.
“I only said that, because he got a touch, I would have saved it because I am 15 centimetres taller, but I never mocked his height. He is a great goalkeeper. I want to make that clear.”