Algeria midfielder Abdelmoumene Djabou had to learn the value of hard graft and perseverance as he sought recognition for his talents. Far from a headline-maker when he started out with ES Setif, he then had to endure an aborted transfer to Swiss side Sion, before finally hitting his stride in his two seasons since a 2012 switch to Club Africain.
Despite sparkling performances for the Tunisian outfit, Djabou missed the cut as Algeria travelled to the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2013. Vahid Halilhodzic doubted the 27-year-old's capacity to influence a match for more than ten minutes, but Djabou stuck at his task, determined to change the Bosnian coach's mind. His reward duly came when Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) unveiled their 23-man party for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
That proved to be only half the battle, however, as Djabou had to watch from the bench as his team-mates lost their opening game. With just eight caps to his name before the tournament began, the diminutive winger was overlooked for the 2-1 loss to Belgium, with Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez starting on the left flank instead.
Again, Djabou resolved to roll up his sleeves and get to work. As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, 'What does not kill me makes me stronger', and the Setif native took that sentiment to heart as he redoubled his efforts in training. His dedication soon bore fruit, and when Halilhodzic pinned up his starting line-up to face Group H rivals Korea Republic, Djabou's name featured on the team-sheet.
"I was very happy, but at the same time I was under a lot of pressure because it was a huge responsibility," he told FIFA.com, recalling the moment when he learned of his inclusion. "Lots of supporters suggested I should play in the second match and that motivated me."
Djabou did not disappoint as he proved a constant menace for the Taeguk Warriors in a 4-2 victory. It was from his corner, in fact, that Rafik Halliche headed in Algeria's second goal on 28 minutes. Ten minutes later, Djabou then added the third goal himself, which he reacted to by rushing towards the Algeria bench to celebrate with Halilhodzic.
He said: "Against Belgium, we put too much emphasis on defence and sat too deep, which had a negative impact on our forwards. By contrast, we started the game against Korea Republic with a lot of energy and played attacking football. That allowed us to score four goals and, thanks to God, I contributed to the win."
For all his delight at his own contribution, though, Djabou was quick to shift the focus back on to the team's achievement: "At the end of the day, we're a tight squad with players who complement each other well. The important thing is to have won."
The challenge now for *Les Fennecs *is to build on that triumph against Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba on Thursday. A positive result would almost certainly send them through to the Round of 16 for the first time in their history, but Djabou is braced for a stern examination – not least since Russia have their backs to the wall.
"It's going to be a very difficult match as the Russians absolutely have to win if they want to qualify for the next round," he commented. "I hope it's our day and that we'll rise to the challenge. Russia will take the initiative to come at us. We'll have to be wary because they have some great players. We'll try to surprise them."
Whether Djabou himself gets to feature or not, he hopes his presence at Brazil 2014 will facilitate his switch to a European club. "I've been playing in Tunisia for two seasons and it's a good league, but my dream is to play in Europe," he said, with his sights set above all on Spain, where his Algeria colleagues Sofiane Feghouli, Yacine Brahimi, Liassine Cadamuro and Medhi Lacen are all based. "I hope we qualify for the Round of 16 because that would surely spark some interest from the European leagues."
Clearly ambitious, all that remains now for Djabou is to seize his chance, and if past experience is anything to by, that is unlikely to pose too much of a problem.