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Jun 13, 2014

Hazard 'can compare to Messi'

The ESPN FC panel preview Group H with emphasis on Belgium and Russia.

Jan Vertonghen has backed his Belgium teammate Eden Hazard to emerge as one of the stars of the World Cup and feels he is up there with Lionel Messi.

- Dembele dreaming of Belgian glory

Hazard has struggled with injuries in the months leading up to the tournament, but Vertonghen is convinced the Chelsea forward will put his problems behind him and impress in Brazil.

"Eden, on form, can stand the comparison with Messi," the Tottenham defender told his club's official website. "He will be there when the big games comes around. He is working so hard for it."

Belgium have been identified by many as dark horses at the World Cup, yet Vertonghen feel such expectations are misplaced for a set of players making their debut in a major international tournament.

"Our aim is to do well in the group stage, we want to go through to the next round and then we might play Germany or Portugal," he said. "It will be hard enough to get through the group stage, so anyone saying we have a chance to do more is not being realistic."

"For me, it's Brazil and Germany," Vertonghen said when asked to predict his finalists. "Spain will be up there, but if they face the power of Brazil with the crowd behind them or the pace Germany play with, then I think they will face a difficult game.

"Netherlands are also contenders. They got to the final four years ago, and they always play well. They have a good coach and good players, their own style -- a bit like how Germany and Spain play, although slightly different. They have [Arjen] Robben, [Robin] van Persie. They have a strong group -- Chile and Spain. I hope they do well, I have friends there."

Belgium open their World Cup campaign against Algeria on June 17, before facing Russia on June 22 and South Korea on June 26.

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