What does the World Cup mean to you?? First and foremost for me, it’s going be a childhood dream come true. Everyone dreams of one day participating in a World Cup and to get there with Algeria is something very special. It’s also true that playing in a World Cup in Africa, the first ever one, will be an extraordinary experience, so the whole thing is really a dream come true.
?What’s your earliest World Cup memory? The first World Cup I really remember was 1994 in the United States. I remember Roberto Baggio for Italy. Ronaldo was just starting out on the bench for Brazil and everyone was talking about him, too. You just get those flashbacks. Not long after, I got a video of all the tournament’s highlights and watched it constantly. Childhood images stay etched in everyone’s minds, and when you’re a child growing up dreaming of being a footballer, then it’s the World Cup that stays somewhere in the corner of your mind.
What are your nation’s expectations at the World Cup? They expect us to try and represent the country well. I think whatever the results, they just want us to give people a great impression of Algeria because it has been such a long time since we last went to the World Cup. If we manage to get past the group stage, then everyone at home will be overjoyed.
How far do you think you will get at the World Cup?? I won’t say how far we will go; I can just say that we will be a surprise package and hopefully we can catch a few people off-guard.
What do you think of the other teams in your group?? Well, there’s not much to add about England – everyone knows very well what they can do. At the same time, they sometimes struggle in tournaments. This time, though, they have a manager with a lot of experience and we’re going to have to be very careful against them because Capello will have brought his knowledge of knockout competitions to the team.
As for the United States, they were runners-up at the Confederations Cup – they have qualities and we will have to pay attention to what they can do. I have an American team-mate at my club [Borussia Monchengladbach, Michael Bradley], so I know what they are capable of.
And then there’s Slovenia. No-one has really talked about them, but we will also have to approach them carefully because they made it to the World Cup on merit and so obviously have quality. They aren’t a team to take lightly.
Have you ever been to South Africa before?? Yes, I have. I saw the US versus Italy match at the Confederations Cup. We went to the match as we were in the middle of playing our World Cup qualifiers and had to play in Zambia, which borders South Africa. So we were travelling through the country and stopped for a night to see the match – knowing full well, of course, that we would be taking on the US in a year’s time! Only joking. But it was a good chance to check out the lie of the land.
Who is your nation’s dangerman? Is it you? No, I would never dare say anything like that about myself. I think with us, anyone can be dangerous at any moment. We have some great individuals and at any second one of them can produce the flash of genius that makes a difference. It’s precisely one of our strengths – the danger can come from anywhere.
Who is England’s dangerman?? At the moment everyone is talking about Rooney, Rooney, Rooney. But we know all the English players well and they all play in big clubs that do well in the Champions League. We’ll have to be aware of them all – they can all be dangerous.
Who would you most like to face if you play England? I don’t think there’s one player in particular who fascinates me. I’m over that phase that you get at the start of your professional career. In the past, if I knew I was playing against famous players, I would be happy and maybe too excited to sleep properly the night before – but I’ve got over that these days. Now what gives me pleasure is playing against top players because that makes for great matches. It’s simply a matter of the football now and I get my joy from playing in beautiful matches.
How far do you think England will get at the World Cup?? They are one of the favourites. I think they had a great qualification campaign, only losing once, so they’re definitely a team to watch out for – and also they have a very experienced manager. They’re really a team to be wary of.
If you won the World Cup, what would be the first thing you would do when you got back to your home country? [Laughs] If I win the World Cup? Have you ever played football?! No, seriously I don’t know – I’m a realistic guy. Even if I step onto the pitch determined to win every match I play, winning the World Cup is a dream rather than a target. I don’t have that sort of thought in mind at the moment.
Interview: June 2010.