Africa

Free-kick against Nigeria in AFCON gives me confidence -Mahrez

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Riyad Mahrez says his African Cup of Nations semi-final winner for Algeria gave him the confidence to kick on and fulfill his potential at Manchester City.

Mahrez joined City in 2018 for a then club record £60m fee. His first season saw him lift all four domestic trophies, but on an individual level the former Leicester man struggled to hold down a regular spot on the wing under Pep Guardiola.

However, Mahrez went away to the AFCON tournament in the summer, and captained Algeria to an unlikely success, something he describes as the best emotion he has had in his life.

Crucial to that success was Mahrez’s 90th minute winner in the semi-final against Nigeria. The City man bent a free kick into the far corner to send his country into the final, and has since returned in brilliant form at the start of the season in the Premier League.

And Mahrez says that free-kick against Nigeria gave him the confidence to live up to his potential.

“I watched the clock and saw it was 90 minutes [gone],” Mahrez said.

“I knew it was the last chance before extra-time, so I was very focused. At first, I wanted to put it under the wall and then I saw the guy behind the wall, so I focused myself on the keeper’s side and I scored.

“It was a big moment for me, and I was very happy and for the country it was unbelievable. Sometimes I watch the video and think: ‘Wow, what have I done?’ It is unbelievable.

“It something that will stay forever. I always knew how [good] I can become – it helped me with my confidence.”

Reflecting on his hugely successful season, Mahrez compared City’s domestic dominance with Algeria’s first trophy in almost three decades.

“To win all four here in the country has never happened so we know we created history,” he explained.

“As well as this, a big moment for me was winning the Afcon for my country. It was one of the best emotions I have had in my career and life.

Riyad Mahrez

“It means a lot to me. It is a big responsibility, but I think it makes me more active [inspired] and I think I must help and give more to help. It was a big moment and emotional. It was unforgettable.

“I did this for Algeria and for my family. I always watched Algeria and they never won this type of thing. The last time they won was 29 years ago and I wasn’t even born. For me it was a big ambition to try and bring something for the country because it is a big country of football. The desire was to give everything and to give them something.”

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