Bottom of their section after recording a goalless draw with England and 1-0 losses to Slovenia and the United States, Algeria have exited the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ at the first hurdle. However, Les Fennecs can at least console themselves with the emergence of a fine custodian in the shape of Rais M’Bolhi.
Back on 12 May, Algeria coach Rabah Saadane had sprung something of a surprise by calling up the well-travelled but relatively unknown figure of M’Bolhi, brought into the squad as cover for first-choice Faouzi Chaouchi. Handed a starting berth after the latter’s costly blunder against Slovenia, the 24-year-old Slavia Sofia keeper quickly caught the eye with fine performances against both the Three Lions and the Stars and Stripes.
“What’s happened these last few days is total madness,” said M’Bolhi, born to a Congolese father and Algerian mother and who only won his first cap for Algeria in 28 May’s friendly defeat by Republic of Ireland.
“This is the first time I’ve been to an official competition with Algeria and I’m proud of what I’ve done, even though it unfortunately ended with a defeat. Both teams played a good match; we’ve no reason to be ashamed of our performance. The Americans were very strong,” he added in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
Having watched M’Bolhi save nearly everything his team-mates could throw at him, opposite number Tim Howard was full of admiration for the up-and-coming shotstopper. “When you create so many chances, you expect to at least put one away. But their keeper was exceptional. Our finishing wasn’t the problem, it was the fact that M’Bolhi was in incredible form and managed to get his body in the way at crucial moments. It was really extraordinary.”
And finally, after his star turn here at South Africa 2010, what next for M’Bolhi? “First of all I need to take a break with my friends and family before going back to my club. Then I'll decide where I want to play in due course. And who knows, perhaps I’ll be back (at the FIFA World Cup) at Brazil 2014!”