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In Balogun’s absence Omeruo has another chance to shine in Cameroon

By Samuel Ifetoye
05 January 2022   |   4:00 am
During the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers en route to Cameroun 2022, Super Eagles’ defender, Kenneth Omeruo, was either on the bench as a substitute or not invited by former coach, Genort Rohr.

[FILES Nigeria’s defender Kenneth Omeruo celebrates his goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Nigeria and Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium on June 26 , 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

During the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers en route to Cameroon 2022, Super Eagles’ defender, Kenneth Omeruo, was either on the bench as a substitute or not invited by former coach, Genort Rohr.

The Leganes’ defender, who currently plies his trade in the second tier of Spanish league for Leganes, won the AFCON’s title in 2013 in his debut appearance at the Africa’s biggest football fiesta.

He is, however, yet to be given the kind of respect others like the late Stephen Keshi and Joseph Yobo got in their playing days.

Omeruo, who is the second most senior player in the current Eagles’ team after Ahmed Musa going into the AFCON, again found himself behind William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun in the pecking order during the AFCON qualifiers under the German coach.

At the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, it took the abysmal performance of Balogun in Nigeria’s first match against Burundi for Omeruo to be drafted back into the first team in the second game against Guinea.

The Eagles had struggled to defeat one of Africa’s minnows in football in the opening match. In the match against Nigeria’s neighbour played at the famous Alexandria Stadium in Egypt, Omeruo, true to expectation, did not only impress his fans by continuing from where he stopped at the 2013 AFCON, he posted a Man of the Match effort by also scoring the only goal that secured Nigeria’s qualification for the quarterfinals, as he nodded in a cross from Moses Simon in the 73rd minute.

Again, in this year’s AFCON in Cameroon, Omeruo, in the absence of Balogun, who dropped out of the tournament due to injury, has another chance to excel.

Speaking to The Guardian at the Eagles’ Helnan Palestine Hotel camp in Alexandria, on what he thinks about his return to Eagles’ first team, Omeruo had this to say: “For me, personally, it was difficult not being given the chance to play for the country, as I would have expected. But one thing is that, I never doubted my ability. I did well in my club last season and since the team’s selection rested on the manager, I was invited to prove myself. I’m happy that last season, I played in a league where Nigerians could watch me week in week out. I think it is one of the reasons I’m here today and I’m bringing that form into the team as well.”

“I had an injury that required a surgery on my shoulder, which kept me away from the game for four months. The opportunity to prove a point after the 2013 AFCON passed by and I had to go on loan again to be able to make it to Brazil 2014 World Cup. That exactly was what happened. But everything is okay now, as I have had a good time playing in other leagues. I’m just happy with the way my career has gone so far,” he said.

He added: “I’m so happy with my last game, especially as I was awarded the most valuable player in the game against Guinea. I ‘m happy with the award, as it meant a lot to me. For me, it shows that that belief I had in myself is there. So, it can only get better.

“I felt good and proud scoring your first goal for the country. I was so happy because it was my dream to score for Nigeria and I’m glad that this goal meant so much for the country as well. So, I am happy about the goal,”

Omeruo, who probably may be attending his last AFCON competition, has an opportunity to shine if selected by Coach Augustine Eguavoen.