Can Simon Mignolet claim the starting role for Belgium at the World Cup ahead of Thibaut Courtois?

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is hoping to be named as Belgium’s first choice goalkeeper in time for the World Cup in June, but can he dislodge the impressive Thibaut Courtois?

Mignolet is enjoying a successful first season with Liverpool following his £9m move from Sunderland in the summer, and will be desperate to feature at this summers World Cup in Brazil.

The Belgian stopper has started all 24 of Liverpool’s league games this campaign, conceding 29 goals and keeping seven clean sheets in the process.

The 25-year old has made an average of 2.25 saves per game up to now, and commands his area effectively, claiming 96% of balls fired into his box and is without a booking all season.

Mignolet has started Belgium’s past two games, in friendly defeats to Colombia and Japan in November, and has expressed his desire to become first choice, dislodging Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois as number one in time for the World Cup.

Courtois has hit back at Mignolet this week, suggesting that he remains in pole position for the number one spot in Belgium manager Marc Wilmot’s side.

"Simon can say whatever he wants, but I think I've already saved enough points for Belgium and I'm playing good games for Atletico. He has to stay humble and respectful."

Chelsea loanee, Courtois has been at Atletico since 2011, playing 132 times for the Spanish side in three consecutive loan spells. And although his club future remains in doubt, the 21-year old believes he is the first choice goalkeeper for Belgium.

The young stopper has enjoyed a fine start to his career, and despite his young age, he is considered to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

He is enjoying another fine season at Atletico, who sit on top of La Liga, three points ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Courtois has started all 22 games in the league this season, shipping just 14 goals and keeping eleven clean sheets so far.

He has picked up three yellow cards however, and needs to work on his discipline, which will surely come with age.

His form in this seasons Champions League is very impressive. The Belgian has kept two clean sheets in his five appearances, making 4.50 saves per goal conceded and has claimed 100% of balls pumped into his area.

Courtois started in every World Cup qualifier for Belgium, as they remained unbeaten throughout their campaign, and is expected to remain as first choice for their tournament opener against Algeria on June 17.

Though Mignolet will look to claim the starting role, and it will be interesting to see who Wilmots goes with in next months friendly against the Ivory Coast on March 5.


image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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