Our 19-year-old central midfielder capped his breakthrough campaign at first team level with a dream call-up to represent Algeria at the showpiece tournament in Brazil last month.
The story didn’t end there, either – for it’s not just the taking part that Nabil can boast on his CV. Our Development Squad graduate played 90 minutes in all three of Algeria’s group games, as they qualified for the knockout phase of the competition for the first time in their history.
And although the rising star maintained a watching brief from the bench as his nation went arguably closer than anyone to beating world champions-elect Germany before suffering extra time heartache in the round of 16, he took it all in his stride and is now looking ahead with optimism.
“I feel like I’ve gained more experience as a result of playing at the World Cup and that’s hopefully going to help me to improve further in the future,” said Nabil, who made 20 first team appearances for us in 2013-14 following his senior debut last December.
“I was confident ahead of the tournament after speaking to the Algeria manager, but I still kept my feet on the ground because you never know what can happen.
“I worked hard to prepare for the tournament and I think it paid off – I played three games out there, after all.”
Reflecting on his experiences in Brazil, the France-born combatant spoke about how his awe at running out at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte to face Belgium in Algeria’s tournament opener on June 17 quickly turned to intense concentration and a desire to help ensure his team did more than just make up the numbers.
“Coming out of the tunnel for the first game was amazing,” he said. “At the beginning I was thinking ‘wow, this is a World Cup game!’
“But then after that I thought ‘this is just a football match’ and I treated it in that way so I could really focus on my game. Once I was out there, I played my normal game and that really helped me.
“We played as a team when we were there. All three group games were very good apart from the Belgium match because of the 2-1 defeat, but it was still an amazing game.
“In the second match against South Korea it was 3-0 at half-time and while we knew we could achieve something before the game, we didn’t know it would be that good in the first half. They gave us too much space, we took the chances and eventually won 4-2.
“The Russia game (pictured, above) was the most emotional one because we got through for the first time in Algerian football history and it was very important for us to achieve that. There was a lot of pressure on us before the game, we knew we had to get a positive result – at least a point – and it was tough because we conceded early in the game. We had to stay strong and we believed right until the end. It paid off as we scored and went through thanks to the 1-1 draw.”
Look out for part two of Nabil’s World Cup Flashback tomorrow, where he recounts his experiences of travelling around Brazil and describes the hero’s welcome he and his compatriots received on their return to Algeria...