Hazard warns opponents about perfect partner De Bruyne
LYON, France (Reuters) - Eden Hazard believes he and fellow midfield playmaker Kevin de Bruyne could prove decisive for Belgium in their quest for a first major title at the European Championship in France.
“Kevin and I are two players who can make a difference," he told a news conference ahead of Belgium's opening Euro 2016 match against Italy in Group E on Monday.
"One day I can make a decisive action and on another day it could be Kevin who does something. I think we can play together perfectly, although our combination at the moment could still improve."
Hazard, who is the Belgium captain having taken over the armband from the injured Vincent Kompany, said he believed they could reach the final.
“We are not a top favourite, there are two or three countries with a much better armoury than us. But we also have good players in each position.
"We had a setback in defence, but those who have come in to replace Kompany are among the best players in the world."
Hazard said he thought Monday’s match-up with the Italians could be key to the outcome of the group.
“The first match is perhaps the most important. If we lose, then we already are under pressure. On paper, on the basis of individual quality, it makes sense that we and the Italians fill the two top places in the group but we will not be under-estimating Ireland or Sweden."
Belgium have been studying Italy in the lead-up to the match, added Hazard.
“They have a great defence and it will be up to us to find a solution to bypass it and be able to score," he said.
"(Goalkeeper Gianluigi) Buffon is also a strong captain. He has had a massive career behind him and is still the best at what he does.
"All players would hope to reach his level one day. We have nothing but the utmost respect for him."
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis)