Mahrez was named in the Desert Foxes’ starting XI for their opening match with group favourites Belgium in Belo Horizonte – a surprise inclusion having only broken into the international reckoning since joining City in January.
And the 23-year-old winger looked to be contributing to one of the surprise results of the tournament during the first half, as Algeria took a 1-0 lead into the break courtesy of a Sofiane Feghouli penalty after 25 minutes.
Belgium – with an array of Premier League stars including Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany in their ranks – came back strongly in the second period, but had to wait until the 70th minute to breach a determined Algeria defence – Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini coming off the bench to level.
Mahrez, who looked lively in possession down the left flank throughout, made way shortly after Belgium’s equaliser, as manager Vahid Halilhodžić looked to secure what would have been a valuable point with a defensive substitution. But Napoli forward Dries Martens secured victory for Belgium by converting Hazard’s pass with 10 minutes to go.
While defeat does not represent the ideal start for Algeria in a tough group, they can take plenty of heart from their display against a Belgium team tipped to go a long way in the competition.
Mahrez and co. will be back in action on Sunday (22 June) when they face Korea Republic (8pm BST) in a game they are likely to need something from to keep their hopes of reaching the knockout stages alive. Their final group game is against Russia a week on Thursday (26 June, 9pm BST).