Hazard joining elite with post-World Cup form but Lukaku has struggled

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Lukaku and Hazard were among Belgium's best players in the summer.

Belgium had their best-ever World Cup showing this summer, finishing in third place thanks to the heroics of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and Thibaut Courtois in particular.

Hazard has since gone on to quickly put himself on the level of the rest of the world’s elite. after spending most of the last four seasons knocking on the door.

Here’s how the Belgium captain and his fellow stars have fared since the summer.

EDEN HAZARD

Appearances: 12

Goals: 10

Assists: 3

Hazard was named the second-best player at the World Cup, and since starring in Russia, he’s gotten even better. New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has unlocked Hazard’s best by allowing the playmaker to play with more freedom.

The result has been that the 28-year-old has shot up to the top of the Premier League scoring charts, and begun looking like one of the best players in the world.

Hazard was one of the standout players of the World Cup.

Hazard was one of the standout players of the World Cup.

ROMELU LUKAKU

Appearances: 13

Goals: 7

Assists: 0

Lukaku seemed to have emerged from the World Cup a more rounded, mature player, ready to take on greater responsibility. Instead, he’s been in an inexplicable slump for Manchester United, where he’s currently in a six-game goal drought.

His profligacy in front of goal has been a big factor behind United’s middling start to the season, as he’s passed up chances that could have resulted in a different result. Still, seven goals from 13 games is hardly a bad record for an out-of-form striker.

Lukaku starred at the World Cup but has struggled this season.

Lukaku starred at the World Cup but has struggled this season.

THIBAUT COURTOIS

Appearances: 8

Saves: 24

Clean Sheets: 4

It’s been a tumultuous time for Courtois after his World Cup heroics. Entering the final season of his contract at Chelsea, he failed to report to training, trying to force through a move to Real Madrid.

He got his wish, though he’s had to split time with Keylor Navas at the Santiago Bernabeu and he’s been part of Madrid’s recent slump. On the plus side, he was named the year’s best goalkeeper by FIFA, and nominated for the Ballon d’Or.

Courtois was named the best goalkeeper of the World Cup, and then for the whole season.

Courtois was named the best goalkeeper of the World Cup, and then for the whole season.

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Modric's post-World Cup honours does Croatia proud, Rakitic and Rebic also thrive

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Rakitic and Modric have continued their good form.

Croatia’s World Cup ended in heartbreak, as a surprise run to the final saw them finish as beaten finalists.

But the momentum of that unexpected finals appearance has spurred some of their players on – not least star man Luka Modric, the man who won the Golden Ball in Russia and has since gone on to pick up more awards.

Ivan Rakitic and Ante Rebic, two of the other architects of Croatia’s passage through the tournament, have also been in excellent form since the summer.

Here’s a look at how all three have fared.

LUKA MODRIC

Appearances: 13

Assists: 2

Key passes: 14

From an individual standpoint, Modric has been doing quite well for himself since winning the Golden Ball at the World Cup. Since then, he’s been named the Best Men’s Player of the Year by both UEFA and FIFA, and he’s the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or.

However, he hasn’t been at his very best on the pitch and his club team is suffering. Real Madrid have lost three times already this season, four if you count the UEFA Super Cup, and they’re in the middle of a four-game winless and goalless run. Modric will hope his time with the national team rejuvenates him.

The Golden Ball was the first of many awards Luka Modric picked up this season.

The Golden Ball was the first of many awards Luka Modric picked up this season.

IVAN RAKITIC

Appearances: 12

Goals: 2

Assists: 2

While team-mate Modric has been receiving all the accolades, Rakitic has gone about his business with typical aplomb, emerging from a World Cup campaign where he was one of the best players.

He’s been in the same form for Barcelona, including scoring a stunning goal in their Champions League win over Tottenham.

Rakitic continues to go from strength to strength.

Rakitic continues to go from strength to strength.

ANTE REBIC

Appearances: 6

Goals: 3

Assists: 1

Ante Rebic’s World Cup form had made him a target for many of Europe’s leading clubs, including Arsenal and Manchester United, and his stock is only rising.

He’s been in excellent form for Eintracht Frankfurt despite his sending off in their most recent game – though not before scoring a goal.

Ante

Ante

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Didier Deschamps not worried after France's 2-2 draw with Iceland

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Kylian Mbappe scored for France

Didier Deschamps insisted he was not worried after France salvaged a last-minute draw in an international friendly against against Iceland.

Out of form and regularly conceding goals, Iceland were expected to lose against the World Cup champions, but strikes either side of half-time from Birkir Bjarnason and Kari Arnason put France on the back foot and in danger of a 2-0 loss.

Les Bleus fought back, however, to level the game at the Stade du Roudourou in Guingamp thanks to an 86th-minute own goal by Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson and a last-gasp penalty from substitute Kylian Mbappe.

Deschamps acknowledged his team had got off to a bad start, with Iceland’s organisation seemingly catching them off-guard.

Quoted on the team’s official website, he said: “We started badly in this match, there was a problem with our attitude.

“We were a little too relaxed in front of a well-organised team that played well against us.

“But as soon as we found a little more rhythm, more density, more races forward, we hurt more, but we’re not going to worry.”

Dimitri Payet, Thomas Lemar and Mbappe were among those introduced from the bench but Deschamps maintained he had chosen the right squad.

“It was logical to give playing time to other players, there are two matches,” he added.

On the back of a 6-0 defeat against Switzerland and a 3-0 loss to Belgium, Iceland manager Erik Hamren remained optimistic despite the setback in clinching his first victory.

Quoted on Icelandic site Visir, he said after the match: “I’m proud of the team. We had talked about having a better attitude, tried to work on the defence, we needed to improve after Switzerland and Belgium, the attitude was fantastic to see.

“This is what I wanted to see in our team. Iceland has done it against good teams before and I wanted to see it myself. Now we know what to do – I hope this continues, especially the attitude that the players showed tonight.”

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