Eden Hazard: 'I prefer to lose with Belgium than win with France'
Eden Hazard criticised France's playing style after Belgium's 1-0 defeat in a World Cup semifinal on Tuesday, saying he would rather lose with Belgium than win with France.
Belgium entered the semifinal as the tournament's leading scorers, but Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku were muted by France, who clinched their third World Cup final appearance in the last 20 years thanks to Samuel Umtiti's second-half header.
Hazard came through the ranks at Lille before moving to Chelsea and was presented before the match as the most French player on his team, but the 27-year-old insisted the pragmatic approach taken by Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps did not fit his idea of how the game should be played.
"I prefer to lose with Belgium than win with France," Hazard told reporters after the game. "We play most beautifully. That's more my style."
Umtiti scored in the 51st minute when he leaped ahead of Marouane Fellaini following Antoine Griezmann's corner and found the back of the net.
"The little black spot is of course that goal from a set-piece," Hazard said. "But we know Deschamps' France. We expected that, but we couldn't find that little spark to score a goal. I didn't find it. France scored first and it became difficult. We came up against a stronger team. We could have done better, but we didn't."
Belgium fell short in the semifinals for the second time after having also stumbled at the same stage in 1986.
"There wasn't a lot said in the dressing room after the loss, because there was a lot of sadness," Hazard said. "We deserved better from this game, even if we expected that sort of game against a team that defends well and plays on the counter-attack."
Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, meanwhile, said that France's tactics made the game "frustrating."
"We lost against a team that I don't think were better than us," Courtois told Onda Cero radio. " ... France know very well that in the last two years, the more difficult matches we have had were against teams that put 11 men behind the ball. If you see today, there was a moment when [Olivier] Giroud and Griezmann were playing 35 or 40 metres from their goal. But the teams have the right to play to their strengths. I do not think we played our best offensive game. They score a goal in a corner and that's always a shame.
"Each team that loses a semi-final thinks [they have missed an opportunity]. If you lose against a team that has played better, you say good, congratulations, because they have been better. I do not have that feeling today."