Eden Hazard believes it would only be fair to judge his time at Real Madrid at the end of next season.

The 29-year-old agreed a move to the Spanish capital last June after seven successful campaigns at Chelsea, during which time he won two Premier Leagues, a pair of Europa League titles and a PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

However, translating that success to his new club has proved challenging for Hazard, who scored only once across 10 LaLiga appearances before suffering an ankle injury last month that was likely to keep him out for the remainder of the season.

Hazard, who was sidelined between November and January with a similar problem, admitted it has hardly been a debut campaign to remember with Los Blancos, though he knows he has time to win the critics around.

"My first season in Madrid has been bad, but it's not all bad, it's a season of adaptation," he explained in an interview with RTBF.

"I'll be judged on my second season. It's a great group of players, I've met a lot of new people. It's been a great experience for me.

"I've still got four years left on my contract and I hope to be in form."

Though he only had the stitches in his ankle removed last week after undergoing surgery in Dallas, Hazard had expected to be available to represent Belgium at Euro 2020.

However, that tournament has been delayed for 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'd hoped to be fit [for the Euros] so it's a bit disappointing that they've been postponed," Hazard added.

"I'd planned to play, the operation was a few weeks ago now.

"We'll all be a year older in 2021, which is a shame, but it'll allow me to be in form.

"I think it's probably hard for the fans because they want to watch an international tournament every summer, so it's hard for them.

"But I also think that there are priorities in life that mean it had to be cancelled. Footballers are like everyone else at the end of the day. It'll wait until next year."

Belgium have been crowned FIFA's Team of the Year for finishing top of the world rankings for the second December in a row.

Roberto Martinez's side will end 2019 at the top of the standings after winning all 10 of their international 'A' matches this year to secure qualification for Euro 2020.

World champions France conclude the year in second place, with Brazil third, England fourth and Uruguay fifth.

World Cup runners-up Croatia and Nations League Finals winners Portugal join Spain, Argentina and Colombia in the top 10.

The Mover of the Year accolade goes to Qatar, who gained 138 rankings points over the course of 2019.

The World Cup 2022 hosts won the Asian Cup in February as they climbed 38 places up the rankings. That was the biggest jump recorded by any team, ahead of Algeria (up 32) and Japan (up 22).

Europe's dominance of the top 50 has diminished this year. UEFA nations make up 28 of the top 50 teams, down three on last year, while CONCACAF, AFC and CAF (all with four) have each gained one place each.

The first FIFA rankings of the new decade will be released on February 20.

Real Madrid shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois is the best goalkeeper in the world, according to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Courtois was dropped to the bench for Real Madrid's 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Saturday amid criticism of his performances.

However, his international boss Martinez labelled the 27-year-old the world's best despite admitting the goalkeeper was going through a "difficult period".

"Thibaut is for me the best goalkeeper in the world, as he showed at the [2018] World Cup," Martinez said on Saturday.

"From there, he is the best person for me to defend Real Madrid's goal.

"It has been a difficult period, but I think that the opportunity to return with the national team has helped him to regain the good feelings, in the same way that we hope that the successes he has at Real Madrid can help us in the Euros."

Belgium were drawn alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia in Group B for Euro 2020.

Eden Hazard's time at Real Madrid will develop into something "very special", according to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Hazard appeared to be finding some form for Madrid before suffering an ankle injury in a Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

The former Chelsea star has just one goal and two assists in 13 games this season, but Martinez believes the Belgium playmaker will become a Madrid star.

"I saw Eden at the [Santiago] Bernabeu against PSG and I have to say that we saw a fascinating hour," Martinez said on Saturday.

"He taught us how his season with Real Madrid will be and the truth is that it makes your mouth water.

"Too bad he had to come off because of the injury, but we see an Eden Hazard that is going to contribute more and more, that his mates know him more and more and the truth is that the project of Eden at Real Madrid will be very special."

Martinez was speaking after Belgium were drawn to face Denmark, Finland and Russia in Group B at Euro 2020.

Another player sure to be key to possible success for Belgium at next year's tournament is Romelu Lukaku, who has scored 11 goals in 17 games for Inter this season.

"The truth is that he had a very difficult period in Manchester United, especially the last six months," Martinez said about the striker.

"He is now leading a project with Antonio Conte and it will be very interesting to see its evolution."

The last three European winners of major tournaments will play in the same pool at Euro 2020, after France, Portugal and Germany were all drawn together

Germany and France - victors at the respective 2014 and 2018 World Cups - will take on reigning European champions Portugal and a play-off winner in Group G.

Croatia, runners-up at last year's World Cup, will renew acquaintances with England, the side they beat in the semi-finals.

Here is the draw in full for next year's event, with four places in the finals still to be determined by the four path-winners in March's play-offs.

 

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia.

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, play-off winner from Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) or Romania if they win Path A.

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, play-off winner from Path C (Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia)

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, play-off winner from Path B (Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland)

Group F: Germany, France, Portugal, play-off winner from Path A (Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary) or winner of Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) if Romania win Path A.

Holders Portugal will face world champions France and fellow heavyweights Germany in a daunting Group F at Euro 2020.

Saturday's draw in Bucharest pitted Fernando Santos' men and their talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo against the winners of the two World Cups either side of their Euro 2016 triumph.

It means Didier Deschamps' Bleus will have an opportunity for revenge after Portugal beat them on home soil at the Stade de France to lift the trophy.

The nation with the dubious pleasure of joining them is still to be determined. Iceland, Bulgaria or Hungary would claim the fourth spot if they progress through their play-off route in Path A.

However, if Romania are victorious in Path A, they will go into Group C with Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria.

In permutations that underline the convoluted and criticised format, one of Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo from play-off Path B would enter Group F if Romania qualify. Otherwise, the winner of Path B goes into Group C.

Italy open the tournament, which will take place across 12 host cities, when they entertain Turkey in Rome on June 12. Wales and Switzerland are also in Group A.

England and Croatia renew acquaintances at Wembley in Group D – Gareth Southgate's men having been sunk by a Mario Mandzukic winner in the semi-finals of Russia 2018 before progressing to the Nations League Finals at the expense of Zlatko Dalic's team.

There is the possibility of an all-British encounter if Scotland prevail from their play-off path alongside Israel, Norway and Serbia, while Czech Republic will meet England again in the finals having traded victories with the Three Lions during qualification.

Group B is the second group not waiting to see how play-off cards fall, with the world's number-one ranked team Belgium lining up alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia.

Spain are aiming to make it three European titles in four attempts after securing glory in 2008 and 2012.

They head up Group C, where the winner of the play-off route including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland will round out the line-up alongside Sweden and Poland.

The Euro 2020 play-offs take place during next March's international break.

The last three European winners of major tournaments will play in the same pool at Euro 2020, after France, Portugal and Germany were all drawn together

Germany and France - victors at the respective 2014 and 2018 World Cups - will take on reigning European champions Portugal and a play-off winner in Group G.

Croatia, runners-up at last year's World Cup, will renew acquaintances with England, the side they beat in the semi-finals.

Here is the draw in full for next year's event, with four places in the finals still to be determined by the four path-winners in March's play-offs.

 

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia.

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, play-off winner from Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) or Romania if they win Path A.

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, play-off winner from Path C (Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia)

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, play-off winner from Path B (Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland)

Group F: Germany, France, Portugal, play-off winner from Path A (Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary) or winner of Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) if Romania win Path A.

Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne labelled Euro 2020 a "fake competition" and claimed the draw format is a sign of football becoming more of a business than a sport.

Roberto Martinez's side won all 10 qualifiers to finish top of Group I and qualify automatically for next year's finals, which will be staged in 12 different cities across Europe.

The group draw will take place on November 30 but, due to seedings and rules involving host nations, Belgium already know they will be drawn into Group B with Russia and Denmark.

Belgium can start planning for the expansive tournament, but Manchester City star De Bruyne is unhappy with the format.

"It's a shame," he told VTM Nieuws after scoring twice in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Cyprus.

"For me, this feels like a fake competition. Football has become more and more [like] a business."

De Bruyne featured in six of Belgium's qualifiers, scoring four times and assisting a further six goals.

Roberto Martinez believes Belgium deserve to win Euro 2020 but acknowledges that will count for little if they do not perform at the finals.

Belgium completed their qualification campaign on Tuesday, thrashing Cyprus 6-1 to end with 10 wins from 10 in Group I, scoring 40 goals in the process.

Martinez has already seen enough to suggest Belgium are worthy of a maiden major international title, yet he knows there is plenty of work to do.

"Whether we can win the European Championship, that is something that we have in our hands," head coach Martinez said. "We need to get even better and then we see if we can play another great tournament.

"We have set the standard at the World Cup [finishing third] and we are continuing to develop into a team with a great deal of togetherness. And the fans are also important.

"We now have seven months to become as good as possible. This team deserves to win the European Championship but, in football, it's not that simple."

Reflecting on qualifying, he added: "I think everyone just worked really well this year. The players know what to do and they do it with an incredible focus.

"Scoring six times and then playing again in this way is very good."

Kevin De Bruyne, who scored twice in a playmaking masterclass against Cyprus, added: "It's always beautiful. Nobody has given it to us.

"Once you start the qualification, you have to go match by match and we did. It's very nice to finally get there [with 10 wins]."

Belgium completed a dominant Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 10th win in 10, crushing Cyprus 6-1 in Brussels on Tuesday.

Roberto Martinez's Red Devils signed off from Group I in real style as Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Benteke both scored twice, albeit only after Cyprus had improbably led through Nikolas Ioannou.

The Belgian response was swift, Benteke and Yannick Carrasco scoring as De Bruyne bagged a brace before the break.

An own goal and Benteke's second following the restart saw the World Cup semi-finalists end qualifying on a remarkable total of 40 goals, more than any other side in Europe.

Hans Vanaken should have opened the scoring for Belgium after 10 minutes but incredibly missed the target from six yards following Thorgan Hazard's teasing low cross.

The hosts were swiftly punished, too, as Ioannou's left boot proved far more clinical, with a low finish sent beyond Simon Mignolet.

Belgium were behind for less than two minutes, though. Benteke failed to make contact with De Bruyne's right-wing cross but scrambled to prod in when Carrasco returned the ball from the left.

A string of Neophytos Michael saves initially kept Belgium at bay as they chased another, yet the goalkeeper gifted De Bruyne a goal 10 minutes before half-time, comically fumbling a bobbling volley into the net.

De Bruyne had his second before the break, firing in with the aid of a slight deflection, before Carrasco volleyed through Michael's legs from Hazard's centre.

It was more of the same after half-time as Michael spilled De Bruyne's shot and directed Carrasco's rebound onto the post, only to see Kypros Christoforou prod in a tame own goal moments later.

Yari Verschaeren poked a one-on-one tamely wide, but Benteke - completely out of sorts in the Premier League - was clinical when similarly sent through, dispatching the chance with his left foot.

Benteke looked destined for a hat-trick until he dallied with an open goal, allowing Christoforou to recover, with the Red Devils settling for six.

What does it mean? Belgium an attacking force to fear

Belgium have seen front men Romelu Lukaku, Benteke and Michy Batshuayi each have issues with form at club level during this campaign, while chief creator De Bruyne has dealt with an injury. To still end with such a tally in the goals-for column is staggering. The opponents have been modest and greater tests are to come, but the Red Devils will expect to outscore anyone.

De Bruyne a class above

Eden Hazard was similarly involved in much of Belgium's best work, but this was a De Bruyne masterclass. He cut through the Cyprus defence time and again, playing every type of pass to tee up team-mates. The Manchester City man still found time for a pair of goals and looks in fine nick heading into a busy club period.

Unhelpful contributions

De Bruyne and Eden Hazard were capable of beating Cyprus without any help but gleefully accepted the unorthodox assistance that came their way. Michael made an awful mess of De Bruyne's shot when the visitors looked like reaching half-time still level, sparking a collapse.

What's next?

Martinez will settle in to assess club action over the coming months, hoping De Bruyne and his other key players come through unscathed ahead of Euro 2020. Cyprus will merely be spectators when the tournament kicks off, perhaps grateful to avoid another meeting.

Eden Hazard believes Belgium will head to Euro 2020 stronger than ever and must improve on their third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup.

Roberto Martinez's side have a 100 per cent record after nine games in qualifying for the European Championship and will seek to finish their campaign with a maximum 30 points against Cyprus on Tuesday.

The Red Devils finished third in last year's World Cup and lead the FIFA rankings, and Hazard thinks they are better equipped for their next major tournament.

"We have two years more experience than at the World Cup, two more years with the coach," said Real Madrid star Hazard.

"We know each other better, we have young players … I think we are stronger. We have developed the winning mentality that we didn't have enough at Euro 2016 and the World Cup.

"But if we end up fourth in the European Championship then we will be less strong." 

Belgium have already been touted as potential Euro 2020 winners and Hazard says they deserve to be considered in that category.

"We are among the favourites, for sure," added Hazard. 

"But we are not alone. France, Italy, Spain, England are also serious opponents." 

Belgium defender Dedryck Boyata bizarrely played in Michy Batshuayi's shirt for part of the Euro 2020 qualifier against Russia on Saturday.

Belgium won the match 4-1 to clinch top spot in Group I and substitute striker Batshuayi spent most of the contest on the bench, although onlookers spotted Boyata wearing his number 23 shirt at the start of the second half.

The mix-up was noticed by match officials around 10 minutes after the interval, and defender Boyata swapped to the correct shirt bearing his own name.

Chelsea forward Batshuayi, who came on for the closing 13 minutes, joked on Twitter: "He realised his dream"

Boyata also saw the funny side, and the Hertha Berlin defender posted a picture of himself in the wrong top on Instagram, along with three laughter emojis.

Eden Hazard scored twice and teed up his younger brother Thorgan for a goal as Belgium maintained their 100 per cent record in Euro 2020 qualifying with a 4-1 win in Russia.

Roberto Martinez's men made light work of a Russia side that went into the game on the back of seven consecutive victories in which they conceded just once.

Coach Stanislav Cherchesov stood and watched as his defence was run ragged by the Hazard brothers and by Dries Mertens and Kevin De Bruyne, who controlled the game from midfield.

Romelu Lukaku scored the final goal of a victory that moves Belgium six points clear at the top of Group I with nine wins from nine games, Russia's consolation strike from Georgi Dzhikiya the only fly in the ointment for Martinez.

Lukaku's feet seemed to get stuck in the turf when Eden Hazard's pull-back found him unmarked in the box early on, but moments later Thorgan Hazard made amends after being played into the box by his older brother.

The Borussia Dortmund winger jinked inside Mario Fernandes before scoring with a clean strike that flew into the top corner of Guilherme's net.

Lukaku's well-judged knock-down presented the unmarked Eden Hazard with a chance to double Belgium's lead from the edge of the box and the Real Madrid man made no mistake, beating Guilherme for power with his clinical low drive.

Russia were pulled apart for the third, which arrived in the 40th minute when Mertens' weighted pass released De Bruyne, who strode through a huge gap in the hosts' defence and drew Guilherme before squaring to Eden Hazard for a simple finish.

Thorgan Hazard played Mertens in for what looked like a certain goal early in the second half but the Napoli man fired tamely at Guilherme before leaving the field clutching his hamstring.

The loss of Mertens did not stop Belgium from chasing a fourth, which came courtesy of Lukaku's surge across the edge of the box and a thunderous low finish from the Inter striker.

Thibaut Courtois could only parry Dmitry Kuzyaev's shot into the path of Dzhikiya 11 minutes from time, but his side-footed shot into the unguarded net did little to take the sheen off a fine Belgium win.


What does it mean? Deja vu for Cherchesov's men

Russia are the only side to score against Belgium in qualifying, with Denis Cheryshev's goal in a 3-1 defeat in March and Dzhikiya's consolation strike here the sum total conceded by a steely Belgium defence, and this game was not far from a repeat of the March encounter.

Russia caught in the Hazards

The constant endeavour of Thorgan and Eden Hazard down the Belgian left caused Russia problems throughout the first half and their lethal finishing all but settled the match.

Wasteful Dzyuba highlights Cheryshev absence

Russia could have been ahead after five minutes but Artem Dzyuba headed wide from six yards and committed a foul in the process, squandering his side's chance to take an early lead.

What's next?

Belgium entertain Cyprus in Brussels on Tuesday, while Russia travel to San Marino to face Group I's stragglers.

The Czech Republic secured their qualification for Euro 2020 with a dramatic comeback win over Kosovo in Thursday's crucial Group A encounter.

Kosovo – who are guaranteed a play-off place thanks to their efforts in the UEFA Nations League – needed to avoid defeat at Doosan Arena to keep their chances of automatic qualification alive.

The visitors looked set to cause an upset when Sheffield Wednesday forward Atdhe Nuhiu put them ahead with a superb header in the 50th minute.

But the Czechs fought back, Alex Kral's stunning hit pulling them level before the midfielder provided the assist for Ondrej Celustka's winner eight minutes later as Jaroslav Silhavy's side completed the comeback to book their place at next year's tournament.

Elsewhere in Group A, leaders England wrapped up progression with a thumping 7-0 demolition of Montenegro at Wembley.

Earlier on Thursday, Turkey ensured their qualification with a 0-0 draw against Iceland – a result which also guaranteed France's spot in the finals, with the world champions coming from behind to defeat Moldova 2-1.

Despite a 6-0 win over Lithuania, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick, reigning champions Portugal must beat Luxembourg in their final match to take their place at the finals.

Spain, Belgium and Italy had already confirmed their places last month, with Ukraine, Russia and Poland having also sealed qualification.

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