SIMON Mignolet wants to enhance his growing reputation as a top stopper by ensuring Belgium’s “golden generation” do not slip up in their World Cup qualifiers.
The road to Brazil 2014 will begin for Belgium in Cardiff on Friday when they take on Wales in the opening qualifier of their group.
It’s a game Mignolet could hardly be taking more seriously – staying down in Swansea as the rest of his Sunderland team-mates headed back home at the weekend to guarantee his preparations for the game were as thorough as possible.
Belgium have been blessed with a string of top quality players in recent years but have yet to deliver on their promise and Mignolet hopes this tournament is the one in which they will all come of age.
“We know we are favourites because all the lads have signed at big clubs now,” he said.
“There are a lot of players who play in the Premier League and we have a lot of talent.
“But in the past it has shown we didn’t manage to get the points on the board we wanted.
“This group is going to be very tough because everyone can beat each other.
“Croatia, Serbia, Scotland and Wales are all very good teams, so it will be tough.
“This will be our first qualifier.
“We want to get three points on the board. It is very important.
“We started badly when we missed out on qualification for the Euros. That cost us dearly.
“Hopefully we can start well now.”
The 24-year-old’s international career is hugely important to him and he was devastated when Belgium didn’t qualify for the Euro 2012 finals.
Now he wants to be part of a Belgian side which qualifies for the World Cup for the first time in over a decade and revives comparisons with Belgium’s most successful side, the team inspired by Enzo Scifo in the 1980s.
That should be a task that is within their grasp, given the quality of players that manager Marc Wilmots can call on.
From the Premier League alone, there are the likes of Vincent Kompany at Manchester City, Marouane Fellaini at Everton, Eden Hazard at Chelsea, Thomas Vermaelen at Arsenal, Moussa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen at Spurs and Mignolet.
The Black Cats keeper admitted: “Everyone expects us now to qualify for the next World Cup – that is why there is pressure on us.
“Qualification has to be done over a period of two years, not only the game against Wales, but obviously we want to start well.”
Meanwhile, Wales midfielder Joe Allen recognises the talent in the visitors’ squad, but has warned that the quality the hosts possess should not be underestimated.
“I think it’s natural sometimes to focus on the opposition, the players they’ve got and the stars they’ve got in their team,” said Liverpool’s big-money summer signing from Swansea City.
“But I think it’s important sometimes to remember the talent and ability that we’ve got in our team.
“I think it’s been well documented, especially over the summer, the players they’ve got in there and the transfer fees they’ve commanded.
“We’ll all have to make sure that we’re on our toes because it’s going to be a very tough encounter.”