Thank the younger Lukaku if Hazard knocks Wales out

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Gareth Bale has shown his character both on and off the field at Euro 2016.

The Real Madrid man’s three goals have driven Wales into the tournament’s quarter-finals. At the same time, his words, particularly those aimed at England ahead of their Group B derby, have bristled.

With a last-eight battle against Belgium, officially the second-best footballing nation in the world, on the horizon, Bale may have had more stinging barbs ready to fire.

But if the former Tottenham man wanted to wage psychological warfare with the Red Devils before taking to the pitch, he’s been beaten to it.

Belgium’s Jordan Lukaku, younger brother of Everton striker Romelu, has used some reverse psychology – the revolver of mind games – to inspire one of his teammates into a match-winning performance.

Using Bale as a comparison, the full-back suggested Eden Hazard had some way to go before his international teammate could be considered the Welshman’s equal.

“Bale is for me perhaps slightly higher than Hazard. He’s been playing longer at that level,” he said before the game.

“At key moments at club level Bale is the man and he stands there, while Hazard is still not consistent,” Lukaku concluded.

Given that the Chelsea winger is currently Belgium’s captain, Lukaku has taken a pretty ballsy approach to his pre-match media duties.

By the time the final whistle blows in Lille, Lukaku Jr could go down as a motivational mastermind.

Hazard is well-known for needing something other than the game itself to get him firing. He was a veritable ghost for much of Chelsea’s season before Tottenham came to town with a chance to win the Premier League, for example.

The winger also often speaks of his ambition to be considered on an equal platform to the current greats of the game; Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

To be told that he isn’t even positioned on the rung below them, by some young upstart in his own squad no less, is sure to spur the Chelsea man on.

Hazard to score in a Belgium win is priced at 15/2. While that may appeal at the outset, it could be worth sticking a nugget or two on our odds of 66/1 that he nets a hat-trick just to shut Lukaku up.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.