Kenneth Omeruo believes that Nigeria’s young side should be aiming to win the Africa Cup of Nations even as has picked out Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi as one of the men to fire them to glory.
Nigeria’s last success came in 2013, in a tournament where Omeruo made his competitive debut for the Super Eagles but subsequently failed to qualify for both the 2015 and 2017 editions.
Manager Gernot Rohr has got Nigeria to the AFCON once again in 2019, though, after narrowly missing out on qualifying from the World Cup group in 2018 and Omeruo thinks that Iwobi will be peaking like the rest of his team come to the tournament and feels that Nigeria should aim for the top prize.
“Iwobi has improved a lot and he brings that into the national team as well,” Omeruo told Goal.
“He has good footwork, he moves well and he enjoys what he does. For him, it is fun to play football. He is a really good player but the exciting thing is there’s more to come.
“We have a big chance because we have got some quality players coming up. This set of boys, they are good, young and the coaches are good. Anything can happen now for us.
“If we keep working hard and listen to the coaches then we can achieve a lot for the country. We just need to work together more and increase our understanding of each other. The last meet up was good because we had a lot of time to train.
“Right now, the team keeps changing. When we play together more and understand each other more then we might be the team to beat.”
While still on the first of his six loan spells away from Chelsea, Omeruo was at ADO Den Haag when he was called upon for his national team debut.
Then aged just 19, Omeruo lined up as Nigeria faced a star-studded Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals of the AFCON.
The Super Eagles ran out 2-1 winners in that clash and Omeruo managed to shut out Didier Drogba in the process.
It was a match that was the making of Omeruo’s reputation in Nigeria and the 25-year-old spoke of his time facing the Chelsea legend, who has only recently retired from football.
“The first thing I noticed is that he is strong. Wow, he is strong,” Omeruo added. “I remember going up for my first header against him and I was put on the floor.
“It’s a happy memory playing Drogba because it was one of the games that got me known in Nigeria especially – I was known as the defender that stopped Drogba.
“That was the first time I met him. I said to him, ‘I am a fan and a Chelsea player’ and he, of course, didn’t know me and said ‘Really?!’
“He told me to do everything I can to play for Chelsea and what a massive club it was. It meant a lot.”