Sunderland keeper Mignolet eyes Belgium start

Simon Mignolet

Simon Mignolet

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SIMON Mignolet admits a first senior outing for his country would cap a remarkable transformation over the last 12 months.

Sunderland keeper Mignolet is in contention to start Belgium’s European Championship qualifier with Austria tonight after being called up to the national squad for the fourth time.

A year ago, the 22-year-old was plying his trade in his homeland for St Truiden, now struggling at the wrong end of the Belgian top flight.

But after moving to Sunderland and establishing himself as a Premier League keeper, the former Belgium U21 stopper is a serious contender to be his country’s number one.

Mignolet told the Echo: “It all depends on what the gaffer back in Belgium wants to do and what his decision is. It would be a big step forward playing for my country after coming from a local team in Belgium.

“St Truiden are at the bottom end of the league now, while I’m playing in the Premier League.

“The only thing I can do is put pressure on the other goalkeepers by showing what I can do week-in, week-out. Hopefully he’ll pick me in the end.”

Belgium need a win in Vienna tonight if they are to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next year’s championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Georges Leekens’ side lie three points adrift of second placed Austria and eight shy of group leaders Germany ahead of tonight’s game and Tuesday’s clash in Brussels against Azerbaijan.

But the Belgians at least have a wealth of options between the sticks.

After keeping seven clean sheets in 15 Premier League starts, Mignolet would seem an obvious choice for the keeper’s jersey.

But with Anderlecht’s Silvio Proto, Bari’s Jean-François Gillet and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Logan Bailly also available, Mignolet faces fierce competition.

“You can always learn from people like that and it’s nice to train with them. The only thing I can do in training is show the gaffer I’m capable of doing a job.”