World Cup notes: Belgium unveil Messi plan

Belgium will look to Eden Hazard to flip its quarterfinal game against Argentina in its favour...

Belgium will look to Eden Hazard to flip its quarterfinal game against Argentina in its favour against Lionel Messi. (AFP)

Sun Wire Services

, Last Updated: 10:44 PM ET

Belgium pointed to Eden Hazard as a potential match winner as they laid out a strategy to combat Lionel Messi and Argentina when they meet in their World Cup quarterfinal in Brasilia on Saturday.

"Hey, we've got Eden," teammate Kevin Mirallas said on Thursday as reporters sought answers to the question of dealing with the threat of Argentina's multiple World Footballer of the Year award winner.

"You can't compare him with Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo, but he is still something special."

Seeing off Argentina's talismanic threat will be a communal effort, added defender Jan Vertonghen.

"We have to stand together as team. If Messi gets past one of us, then there must a second and third player ready to stop him."

But he added it was Argentina who had more to fret over as they prepared a game plan against the Belgians, who have four wins under their belt in Brazil already.

"We are a team that is difficult for an opponent to prepare against and to play against," Vertonghen insisted.

OVERPASS CRUSHES VEHICLES

An unfinished overpass collapsed in the Brazilian World Cup host city of Belo Horizonte on Thursday, leaving at least one person dead and casting a shadow over a tournament that has suffered repeated construction accidents and delays.

The bridge, located about three kilometres from the Mineirao Stadium where World Cup games are being played, collapsed as vehicles were passing on a busy road underneath.

Part of a passenger bus was crushed and another car was still trapped in the wreckage hours later.

The collapsed bridge ran over one of the major thoroughfares connecting the stadium area with the international airport. It was part of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that officials had promised would be ready for the World Cup.

Groups of people gathered around the scene of the accident, some shouting furiously.

"This is the incompetence of our authorities and our businesses," said Leandro Brito, 23, a bank worker. "Because of the World Cup they sped everything up to finish faster. That's why this tragedy has happened. They are not making things properly. Everyone is very angry."

Heavy government spending on the World Cup and long delays in infrastructure projects spurred violent street protests across Brazil over the past year, although they have died down in recent weeks and the tournament has gone more smoothly than many fans and government officials expected.

Still, several projects were plagued by fatal construction accidents. Eight workers died building stadiums in the 12 cities that have hosted games.

NEUER, THE SWEEPER?

Germany keeper Manuel Neuer's prowess as a sweeper, so amply demonstrated against Algeria, gives them an important advantage, coach Joachim Loew said on the eve of Friday's World Cup quarterfinal against France.

Loew said Neuer's defensive skills outside the area means Germany's back four can move further up the pitch to support the attack. Neuer had 19 touches outside his box in the 2-1 last-16 win over Algeria and snuffed out dangerous counter attacks.

"If a team tried to cause an upset relatively early, just as we did against the U.S. or Algeria, the defenders head up the pitch," Loew said.

"This naturally means that they go into the opponent's half and it is indispensable that the goalkeeper does not stand on the line or in the five-metre (six-yard) area because exactly then the goalkeeper (is) needed.

"This shows the difference in class of a Manuel Neuer, that he functions like a player behind the defence and he has an incredibly good feeling for long balls.”

BASANTA SHOULD START

Argentine defender Jose Basanta looks likely to start for suspended Marcos Rojo, while injured striker Sergio Aguero may be a substitute for Saturday's World Cup quarterfinal against Belgium, a team practice on Thursday indicated.

Left back Rojo's solid World Cup performances have been winning over his detractors back home, but he will miss the clash in Brasilia after picking up a second yellow card of the tournament against Switzerland.

Basanta, 30, who replaced Rojo in extra time against the Swiss, looks likely to fill his position after being given a personalized workout during a training session at their camp in Belo Horizonte on Thursday.

Martin Demichelis remains an alternative option.

Aguero, recovering from a muscle injury in his left leg, trained lightly and could be a substitute, according to squad sources. The striker's absence has been keenly felt, putting more pressure on Lionel Messi in Argentina's attack.

Coach Alejandro Sabella kept journalists out of the training session held at the base of Brazilian team Atletico Mineiro, though some fans gathered outside and reporters could glimpse parts of the training from a distance.


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