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Simon says England need to be on guard
SIMON MIGNOLET thinks England will be desperate to head to Euro 2012 in style but warns Roy Hodgson not to expect a summer stroll when Belgium head for Wembley this weekend.
Mignolet, the Sunderland goalkeeper, is expected to be back between the posts for the Belgians when they provide the final warm-up test for Hodgson's squad before they head for the Ukraine and Poland.
It is a friendly which will double up as the new England manager's first game in charge at Wembley, drawing in a capacity crowd for the occasion before they fly out to the European Championships.
But Mignolet, an unused substitute in Friday's 2-2 draw with Montenegro when Atletico Madrid's Thibault Courtois started, thinks Belgium will have sufficient quality to give Hodgson plenty to worry about ahead of the finals.
"It's a big game to look forward to for us all," said Mignolet. "It's a massive game for England, too. It will be their last game before the Euros under a new manager, so all of the players will be trying to show they deserve to be in the team. They will be well up for it.
"For us it will be about preparation for the qualifiers in September. We want to make sure we qualify for the World Cup in 2014. We are gearing up for that now. It will be a good match for us to help our preparation. It will be a full house at Wembley. It will be a nice game to play in."
Mignolet ended his second season at Sunderland by enhancing his growing reputation, turning in a display on the final day which frustrated Manchester United in their attempts to retain the Premier League crown.
His performances at the Stadium of Light have been noted across the North Sea where he had been preferred to Courtois and Jean-Francois Gillet in goal for Georges Leekens' team.
But while Sunderland supporters will be keeping an eye on the display of Mignolet at Wembley, there are numerous other highly-rated Belgians capable of denting England's already suspect confidence ahead of the Euros.
"We have a decent team. We have a decent squad," said Mignolet. "The problem we have had is that we have not converted that talent in to results. We really should have qualified for the Euros with all the quality we have in the squad.
"We didn't manage to do that and hopefully we can kick on and make sure we qualify for the World Cup. The England game is an important one for us to help prepare for World Cup qualification."
Lille's outstanding winger Eden Hazard - due to choose if he will be playing for Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United next season - is their biggest and most high profile talent.
But Belgium also boast Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, Vincent Kompany, Daniel Van Buyten, Alex Witsel and Marouane Fellaini among their ranks.
There is also further well regarded talents such as Steven Defour, Moussa Dembele and Romelu Lukaku for England to keep an eye on. All considered, such potential presents the obvious question of why Belgium are not at this summer's finals.
He said: "In the last ten years we have not managed to qualify for the big tournaments. We should really do that with the big players we have. We have a lot of young players but that's what football is about now.
"You start to play first team football at a younger age. The players we have all play in the big competitions with the big clubs. It doesn't matter what age we are, we have to kick on. We have to make sure we do well in the qualifications for Brazil in two years time."
Mignolet's value has increased considerably since his £2m switch from
Sint-Truiden two years ago and Martin O'Neill's high opinion of him was highlighted by allowing Scotland international Craig Gordon to leave as a free agent.
Gordon is unlikely to be the only first team squad member to leave Wearside during the summer, while Nicklas Bendtner has admitted that he is now looking at other options.
O'Neill opted against pursuing a full-time deal for the Arsenal striker at the end of his loan and Bendtner has attracted interest from Germany.
And the Denmark international, hoping to make a big impression at the European Championships, said: "Yes, I have talked to other clubs. I have told all of the clubs that I want to wait until after Euro 2012."