The Chelsea youngster at the heart of Nigeria's World Cup defence

By 06:16 Mon, 16 Jun 2014 Comments


Kenneth Omeruo

kicks off his World

Cup campaign against Iran

Chelsea signed Omeruo

from Standard Liege in 2012

Omeruo starred on loan for

Middlesbrough this year

The main worry for Nigeria over the

past week has not been how on

earth they're going to deal with

Lionel Messi and Co in Group F,

but that Kenneth Omeruo might

succumb to a knee injury.

A collective sigh of relief was

breathed all round when the 20-

year-old Chelsea youngster was

confirmed fit to start for the Super

Eagles in their World Cup bow

against Iran.

Although set to win just his 18th

cap for Nigeria on Monday evening,

Omeruo’s assured performances at

in the middle of defence have seen

him emerge as a crucial element to

their plans.

Only ten days after his

international debut last year,

Omeruo made his name by

performing admirably in every

match in Nigeria’s acclaimed run

to winning the African Nations

Cup.

Since then, he’s been a mainstay

in the side, helped immeasurably

by his loan spell at Middlesbrough

last season, able to operate at

centre-half or right-back.

Far from being forgotten about

while in the north east, parent

club Chelsea awarded him a new

contract last month to keep him at

Stamford Bridge until 2018.

Plucked from Standard Liege by the

Blues in January 2012, Omeruo had

to wait until two years – via a loan

spell at Dutch side ADO Den Haag

– for his debut in English football.

Boro used manager Aitor Karanka’s

Real Madrid connection with Jose

Mourinho to secure the services of

Omeruo on loan until the end of

the season.

Once the Nigerian got his chance,

he became a regular fixture for the

mid-table side, often featuring

alongside fellow Chelsea loanee

Nathaniel Chalobah.

His uncomplicated style, strength

and a level composure belying his

lack of experience make him a solid

presence at the back, particularly

when dealing with the rigours of

Championship forwards.

These qualities are underpinned

by a great pace, leading many to

think he has what it takes to step

up to a higher level.

The World Cup will test that on the

biggest stage imaginable. With the

Iran clash the least troubling of

the opening matches, few expect

Nigeria to reach the last-16 at the

expense of Bosnia or Argentina.

In players like Edin Dzeko and

Miralem Pjanic, Omeruo will face

the biggest test of his career on

Saturday, at least until Wednesday

week, when he’ll be tasked with

keeping the world’s best attacking

talent at bay..

Even if Nigeria don’t make it

through, Omeruo’s performances

will be watched carefully by club

boss Jose Mourinho.

With Tomas Kalas – so assured in

his Premier League debut at

Anfield – joining the hordes of

Chelsea players on loan by signing

up with Bundesliga new boys

Cologne, there is a place at centre-

half available in Chelsea’s squad

for next season.

If Omeruo continues his rise in

Brazil, Mourinho will find his

designs on the spot hard to ignore.


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