Chelsea prospect Kenneth Omeruo has been provided the perfect stage from which to showcase his talent, and faced the toughest test of his career yesterday.
The Middlesbrough loanee made his third start of the World Cup against Argentina, when he went up against none other than four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi.
Omeruo's Nigeria lost 3-2, but were fortunate enough to qualify for the second round after Bosnia & Herzegovina beat Iran 3-1.
Nigeria will face France in the second round, which will be another tough test for Omeruo, so how did he get on against Messi?
The obvious point is that Messi scored twice, once from open play and one from a set piece. With Nigeria conceding more goals in one game than they had in the previous two, it was not a day to remember defensively.
Omeruo was part of a defence which allowed 12 efforts on goal from inside the box alone, for the second game running.
Having to cope with the extra space Messi creates and the player's trickery himself also caused him to concede two fouls during the match - had had conceded only one in the previous two games.
|Match||Matchday||Aerial Duels Won||Duels Won||Won Tackles||Interceptions||Effective Clearances||Attempts Conceded Inside box||Fouls|
|Kenneth Omeruo||vs Iran||01||4||8||2||0||8||3||1|
|Kenneth Omeruo||vs Bosnia||02||2||7||4||3||9||12||0|
|Kenneth Omeruo||vs Argentina||03||1||6||4||4||7||12||2|
Omeruo won less aerial duels against Argentina than he did in any match so far, although this was not in relation to Lionel Messi.
What he did do was match his best performance in terms of tackling, winning four tackles, and enjoying his best game of the tournament for interceptions, winning more against Argentina than he did in his previous two games combined.
The encounter was a tough learning curve for the entire Nigerian defence, but they conceded just the one goal from open play, early in the third minute.
Aside from that and the two set pieces, they acquitted themselves well and Omeruo can come away from the game with his head held high.
He will have to be braced for a more physical duel against France, when he could come up against Arsenal forward Oliver Giroud at some stage. Come through that, and it will become impossible for Jose Mourinho to ignore him for consideration at Chelsea next season.