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Spurs youngster Bentaleb’s pinching himself ahead of World Cup with Algeria

PUBLISHED: 14:00 05 June 2014 | UPDATED: 14:25 05 June 2014

Tottenham and Algeria midfielder Nabil Bentaleb:

Tottenham and Algeria midfielder Nabil Bentaleb: "At the start of this season, I never dreamed that I might go to the World Cup."

EMPICS Sport

Exclusive: Nabil Bentaleb admits he is pinching himself as his rapid rise to prominence culminates in a World Cup campaign.

The 19-year-old was virtually unknown at the start of December but, when Tim Sherwood became Tottenham’s head coach, the new boss immediately promoted Bentaleb from the club’s academy.

The midfielder featured in 19 of Sherwood’s first 22 games in charge of Spurs, including nine starts, bringing him to the attention of a few national teams.

Bentaleb was born in Lille, France, to Algerian parents and had made one appearance for France’s Under-19s in November 2012, while England’s five-year residency rules meant he would have been eligible to play for the Three Lions in 2017.

The battle for Bentaleb’s allegiance did not last long. He committed himself to Algeria in February and appeared for the Desert Foxes in a friendly against Slovenia on March 5.

Bentaleb admits he is stunned to be heading to Brazil, and insists he was not promised a spot at this summer’s World Cup during his deliberations.

“Of course, at the start of this season, I never dreamed that I might go to the World Cup. I was still in the reserves, so it’s been good progress!” he said.

“I thought a lot about it and I decided to make the choice that my heart was telling me and that was Algeria. All my family’s from Algeria and I’m half Algerian as well.

“Did I feel I’d been overlooked by France in the past? Not really, I didn’t think about that because you have to look at the future. You have to think long-term, not short-term. It has nothing to do with that.

“The manager [Vahid Halilhodzic] didn’t tell me anything about the World Cup. He’s a very honest man and he told me before I even picked Algeria that if I wanted to play in the World Cup I would have to fight for my place. He didn’t promise me anything.

“We are outsiders but we’re not going there just to play, we want to do something.”

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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