Eden Hazard says the time is right for Belgium to reach their potential | Stuart James

Confident Hazard says the side are more mature now after chastening quarter-final defeats by Argentina at World Cup four years ago and Wales at Euro 2016

It was one of those questions that some players would have wriggled out of answering properly and preferred to keep their inner thoughts to themselves but Eden Hazard, full of self?belief, never blinked. Now that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have gone home, could this be his tournament? “I hope so. They are not in the World Cup, so now it is time to shine,” Hazard said. “I want to go through the quarter-final, semi-final and maybe the final.”

Sitting on a stage at the Rostov Arena, Hazard spoke with a mixture of confidence and conviction as he extolled the qualities of a team that breezed through the group stage with maximum points, scoring freely and stretching their unbeaten run to 22 matches. Japan, who are ranked 61st in the world, are up next, in a last-16 tie in Rostov on Monday night, and it did not take long for someone to mention the tantalising prospect of a quarter-final against Brazil on Friday.

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