Dalung, a conspicuous presence in the stands as the 1996 champions pipped Europe’s best team Sweden in Manaus on Sunday night to reach the tournament quarter –finals with a game to spare, tendered his apology in the dressing room after the game at the Arena Amazonia.
After hugging and exchanging pleasantries with players and officials, Barrister Dalung said: “I want to apologize for all the circumstances that led to your late arrival here. I apologize because I am the head and as such I must take responsibility for anything that happens under my watch.
“I’m happy you all have put the unfortunate incident behind you and have shown that you are true heroes by making the country proud with your qualification for the quarter finals. This qualification is unique as you guys are the first team to do so in the football event.”
Speaking further, the Sports Minister disclosed: “I want to assure you that we appreciate your efforts, and I want to say that it’s when a man faces challenges that his true ability is tested. I am sure we all have learnt our lessons and will take the lessons to heart going forward.”
Dalung then assured the players and officials that all bonuses and allowances due to them will be paid, as he recalled that the team faced similar challenges on the way to winning the Africa U23 Cup of Nations in Senegal last year, which qualified Nigeria for the Olympics.
Responding, team captain Mikel John Obi assured Dalung that the team will not lose focus as their target is to win the gold medal for Nigeria. The Sports Minister was in company with Nigeria’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Brazil, Adamu Emozozo and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Chinyeaka Ohaa.
Meanwhile, Coach Samson Siasia has assured that his team will continue to take it one game at a time in the ongoing Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016.
Answering questions at the post match press conference after the 1-0 victory over Sweden, Coach Siasia said for now his attention is on the team’s last group game against Colombia and as such he is not bothered about avoiding host nation Brazil in the quarter –final stage.
“I think for me and the boys all we are doing now is taking it a game at a time. We are not bothered about the team we will be playing in the quarter finals, let’s play Colombia first and from there we will think of our opponents at that stage.
“The issue of the team I will prefer to play in the quarter final stage doesn’t arise now; what is uppermost in my mind is getting my boys focused for every game.”
Speaking on his defence –line that has been termed as being the weak link in the team, Siasia said: “As you all can see, today my defence line didn’t concede any goal, yes myself and my technical crew worked very hard to correct all the lapses we noticed in our first game and I am happy my boys stood their ground and kept a clean sheet today. All I can say for now is that it’s work in progress.”
On his part, Captain Mikel Obi expressed delight that they have been able to improve on their performance from the first game, all thanks to the hard work of the technical crew.