22 July 2024

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Everton midfielder Amadou Onana was full of praise for Nottingham Forest’s Orel Mangala as the Premier League duo helped Belgium hammer Estonia 5-0 in Tuesday’s Euro 2024 qualifier. 

With the so-called Golden – or should that be Olden – Generation riding off into the sunset, you can expect to see a very different-looking Belgium side striding onto the stage at next summer’s European Championships.

Jeremy Doku, Wout Faes, Arthur Theate, Charles de Ketelaere, Orel Mangala and Everton’s £50 million-rated midfield powerhouse Andre Onana all staked their claim for a regular place in Domenico Tedesco’s XI as Belgium produced a five-star, five-goal performance against the minnows of Estonia.

With Axel Witsel now 34, and Youri Tielemans struggling for starts at Aston Villa, Onana and Mangala look well-placed to establish themselves as Tedesco’s first-choice midfield partnership too, and the Premier League pair only enhanced their growing reputations as Belgium continue to hold off Ralf Rangnick’s Austria at the top of Group F.

Everton and Nottingham Forest stars shine on international duty

“I think it’s going very well, as you saw tonight,” Onana tells RTBF. “We combined well and got along well between the lines. I also feel very comfortable with (Mangala).”

Mangala, with his press-resistant close control and his tidy use of the ball, certainly feels like the ideal foil for the more athletic, box-to-box Onana.

The former has started three of Nottingham Forest’s four Premier League games so far in 2023/24 as well, bringing his fine club form onto the international stage.

“Why that choice? It was not a choice against Youri, but for Orel,” Tedesco explains. “He has already played a lot at Nottingham Forest. (Tielemans) had also missed a day of training. You have to be careful, especially in that position.”

“Orel has done well under me in every match. He is doing well.”

Forest paid £12.75 million to bring in Mangala from Stuttgart in 2022. The Brussels-born ball-player has now earned six caps since his Rote Duivels debut last year.

More are certain to follow too, should he maintain his current rate of progress.

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