SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Brazil’s World Cup quarter-final against Belgium will pit two of Chelsea’s best midfielders against each other, but Brazil’s Willian told reporters he will be doing everything he can to send his team mate Eden Hazard home early from Russia.
The two sides meet in Kazan on Friday and Willian, who counts Hazard as a friend at the cosmopolitan Stamford Bridge, said there will be no mercy.
“Hazard is one of the best in the world, but now we’re on opposite sides,” Willian said. “This is the first time I will have played against him in my five or six years at Chelsea.”
“I am friends with him at the club but he is on his side and I am on mine, and I hope I can get the better of him. I will be doing everything possible to win, but we will continue to be friends.”
Willian will face another Chelsea team mate in goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and he is aware of the quality throughout the Belgian team, which has scored more goals than any other in the tournament so far.
“We have lots of respect for our rival. We know how much quality Belgium have got,” he said. “But we have to maintain our same way of playing, getting better every game, and that is what we will take into this match.”
Brazil were more convincing in their 2-0 win over Mexico in the previous round than Belgium were in overcoming an underrated Japan. The Belgians were 2-0 down and needed a goal in the final minute of the match to squeeze into the last eight.
Willian said that victory over Japan and adversity will have boosted Belgium’s confidence but that he was sure his own team are favourites to move on to the semi-finals.
“We know what we have to do,” he told reporters at Brazil’s base in Sochi. “We are going to continue studying them to try and neutralise them and hit them at their weak points.”
Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Hugh Lawson