INSIDE AFCON 2019: Kenneth Omeruo Unconcerned About Starting Lineup in Super Eagles Squad (AUDIO)

ALEXANDRIA – Super Eagles match-winner against Guinea, Kenneth Omeruo told that the team didn’t allow their row with the Nigeria Football Federation over unpaid bonuses and allowances affect them as they set about securing the win which made them the first to qualify for the knockout stages of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Omeruo, 25, scored the lone goal in the encounter against the Syli Nationale in the 73rd minute when he rose highest to direct a header from a Moses Simon corner firmly beyond Ibrahim Kone at the Alexandria Stadium.

And speaking after the match, the Chelsea defender who spent last season on loan at Spanish club Leganes, said the team had resolved “to forget every other thing” happening “outside football” before they stepped on the pitch because they knew Nigerians were counting on them to deliver.

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“We knew no matter what’s going on behind – outside football, outside being on the pitch -, our job is to play and Nigerians are hoping that we win every game. So, we knew we had to forget every other thing and focus on today’s game and be the first to qualify from our group. So, I’m happy we could achieve that.”

The centre-back, one of just three players in the present squad with experience of playing at an AFCON after being part of Stephen Keshi’s 2013 AFCON winning squad in South Africa, has had to play second fiddle behind Gernot Rohr’s first choice defensive pairing of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong despite his long international experience.

But Omeruo who is enjoying a run in the team of late and has started both games in Egypt, partnering Troost-Ekong against Burundi and Balogun against Guinea, says the depth in the centre back position shows the national team have got a good defence, adding that he isn’t overly worried about who gets to play but he would always give his best whenever he gets the chance to start games for the Eagles.

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“For me, it is important to stay focused. We have a wonderful squad; I’ve been out for a while and they’ve [Balogun and Troost-Ekong] been playing and they’ve been doing good. It doesn’t matter who plays, we have a strong defence and it showed [against Guinea]. I just want to give my best.”

Securing qualification for the Round of 16 with a game to spare means the Super Eagles can afford to take things easy when they play Madagascar on Sunday in their final Group B game but Omeruo says even though they aren’t under any pressure having already secured passage to the next round, the team can’t afford to take their foot off the gas and must remain focused.

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“We are happy we are not under pressure, they [Madagascar] are the ones under pressure now. So, we have to keep the ball and remain focused. Our aim is to take every game as it comes.”