Kenneth Omeruo: The rock of Leganes chasing a glorious AFCON dream

Kenneth Omeruo can make history as the first Nigerian – alongside captain Ahmed Musa – to win the Africa Cup of Nations twice should the Super Eagles go all the way in Cameroon.

That would be a massive feat for a player who, following his mixed impact at youth levels, many did not give a chance to reach the peak of international football.

Omeruo was part of the Golden Eaglets side that sadly fell at the final hurdle at the FIFA U-17 World Cup hosted on home soil in 2009. He is the only player from that team in the current Super Eagles squad. 

Omeruo also featured prominently as the Nigerian Flying Eagles – that also had Ahmed Musa – were bundled out at the quarterfinals stage of the 2011 FIFA u-20 World Cup in Colombia.

While most of the key defenders in that team, including the exciting Felix Udoh, never made the step up to the Super Eagles, Omeruo fought his way to Chelsea through Standard Liege and made his international debut aged just 19.

He was still in his teens when head coach Stephen Keshi included him in Nigeria’s squad for the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa.

Despite being the centre-back with the fewest international caps among a seasoned bunch of Joseph Yobo, Efe Ambrose, Azubuike Egwueke, and Godfrey Oboabona, Omeruo’s hard-nosed, no-nonsense style earned him the favour of the late Keshi.

The youngster then went on to play in all of Nigeria’s matches as the Eagles conceded just four in six games to win the Afcon for the third time.

The Eagles were not even among the favourites for that tourney, having failed to qualify for the previous edition in 2012.

But with Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike doing wonders in attack, Mikel Obi pulling the strings in midfield, and Omeruo guarding the defence, there was no stopping the Eagles.

Still, Omeruo’s success at the international level did not bring him recognition at Chelsea as the Blues farmed him out on loan to Turkish, English, and Spanish clubs before he found a permanent home in Leganes.

And having spent the last year and a half with the Cucumber Growers in the Spanish second, Omeruo was expected to play second fiddle to the more favoured ‘Oyibo Wall’ pairing of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong.

However, an injury to the Rangers man opened the doors for Omeruo to come into the heart of the Eagles’ defence.

The 28-year-old has barely put a foot wrong in Cameroon, with his maturity and defensive nous helping the Super Eagles cage Liverpool’s in-form forward Mohamed Salah in a dominant win over Egypt on matchday one.

Omeruo was also excellent against Sudan as the Eagles, without getting out of gear one, dispatched the Falcons of Jediane.

And once again, the stars appear to be aligning in favour of the Super Eagles. The three-time continental kings are playing good football.

The players appear well organised and are working hard for each one. Everyone is pulling in the same direction with one single goal in mind – the Afcon trophy.

African football heroes, including Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan and South Africa Teko Modise, predict a Nigeria triumph in Cameroon.

Should everything fall into place and Augustine Eguavoen’s men romp to glory in Cameroon, all of the players and even the coach will seal their Super Eagles legacy. 

Omeruo, though, could take his a notch higher as he would become the first Nigerian player alongside Musa to clinch two winners’ medals at Africa’s biggest football event.

Such a remarkable feat would match and even dwarf the most significant achievement in Omeruo’s career, catapulting him into the record books and the realm of Super Eagles’ greats.

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