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Soccer-World-Bentaleb poised to complete amazing six-month rise

Reuters

By Mike Collett

April 30 (Reuters) - Few players at the World Cup in Brazil will have experienced a rise quite as meteoric as that enjoyed by Algeria's teenage midfielder Nabil Bentaleb this season.

Less than six months ago he was playing in Tottenham Hotspur's youth development squad on windswept playing fields and in near-empty stadiums.

In June, he is expected to be part of Algeria's midfield when they face Belgium, Russia and South Korea aiming to improve on their record in South Africa four years ago, when they were eliminated at the first stage without scoring a goal.

Bentaleb, 19, has been playing well in the Premier League since making a surprise first-team debut for Spurs in Tim Sherwood's first match in charge against Southampton in December, following the departure of Andre Villas-Boas.

"It has been a difficult path for me to get where I am today," he said after making his debut.

"I was released a few times and many clubs didn't want to open their doors for me. Lille let me go when I was 14 after I had been there since I was six, that was very tough for me at the time.

"I had two choices, either I could give up and not fight for what I wanted, or try to show them they were wrong. Obviously I chose the second option."

Like many of the Algeria squad, Bentaleb, who was born in Lille, developed through the French system but his path was strewn with disappointment.

His time at Belgium's Mouscron ended when they were declared bankrupt and folded, and a spell at Dunkerque finished when they released him.

A trial with Birmingham City came to nothing before Spurs offered him a tryout and, impressed, signed him as a triallist in September 2011. They offered him a professional contract a year later.

Sherwood, who was head of Spurs' youth development and watched Bentaleb's progress, had no qualms about giving him his debut. He has displayed flair, invention and strength in a side that has struggled following the sale of Gareth Bale, the arrival of seven signings and the sacking of Villas-Boas.

Bentaleb made one appearance for France's Under-19s before switching his allegiance to Algeria via his parents, and he made his debut in a 2-0 win over Slovenia last month.

"I am so proud to be playing for Algeria," he said. "Some people asked me "why not France?" but I don't have the same pride in that country in a football sense." (Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Robert Woodward)

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