TOULOUSE, France — A superb performance by Eden Hazard guided Belgium to a 4-0 victory over Hungary on Sunday and a place in the European Championship quarterfinals.
Defender Toby Alderweireld opened the scoring with a header in the 10th minute, but Belgium had to wait until the closing stages before securing a convincing victory at the Stadium de Toulouse, thanks to some moments of brilliance from Hazard.
The Chelsea playmaker provided the pass for substitute Michy Batshuayi to tap home in the 78th minute, and then scored a spectacular solo goal after a mazy run two minutes later.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco added the fourth in stoppage time as Belgium lined up a quarterfinal against Wales on Friday in Lille.
Asked if it was his best performance for Belgium, Hazard simply said "yes" before breaking into a smile.
"It was a great match," Hazard said. "Beyond my goal, it was a great collective performance. We created a lot of chances and finished enough of them."
The only complaint Belgium coach Marc Wilmots had was that his players should have killed off the match earlier.
"We should have been 3-0 up after the first half," Wilmots said. "We kept the game 1-0 too long. We needed too many chances, and in big games we usually don’t have so many chances.
"But I told them to be calm. I told them to keep going because we were moving the ball very well."
Hungary paid for an early defensive lapse that left its players chasing the game and exposed to Belgium’s attacks on the break.
Romelu Lukaku and Alderweireld both broke away from the Hungary defence and were left unmarked when Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick from the left swerved in. Lukaku was inches away from making contact but Alderweireld jumped at the same time and powered the ball home.
"I wasn’t happy because we conceded the goal from a set piece," Hungary coach Bernd Storck said. "We weren’t brave as we had been in previous matches. I thought there was a lack of confidence."
Despite the early blow, Hungary defended robustly and looked dangerous at times.
But Belgium stretched Hungary’s defence on numerous occasions with its creative attacking play, with Hazard and De Bruyne pulling the strings.
De Bruyne hit the crossbar with a free kick in the 35th minute and was lively throughout the match, only to be denied several times by goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly.
Hungary had its chances to equalize, with captain Balazs Dzsudzsak going close with a shot that flew just wide of the post. Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois nearly gifted Hungary a goal when he slipped while trying to control a back pass in the first half. Luckily for the Chelsea player, it trickled out for a corner.
Hungary’s players had no such luck in the closing stages, as Hazard put the match beyond their reach.
He surged past a group of Hungary defenders on the left side before supplying a perfect low cross for Batshuayi to steer home, just two minutes after coming on.
Hazard followed up almost immediately with a remarkable goal, breaking down the left on another counterattack before cutting inside, skipping past three Hungary defenders and curling a shot into the bottom right corner.
Despite the comprehensive defeat, Storck said Hungary leaves Euro 2016 after surprising many by topping its group and putting in an honourable performance on Sunday against one of the pre-tournament favourites.
"We can leave with our heads held high," he said.
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