Africa Cup of Nations host country Gabon drew 0-0 with Cameroon on Sunday night, failing to progress from the group stages of the competition after delivering three successive draws against Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and the Indomitable Lions.
Captain and star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang expressed his bitter disappointment at the premature exit of the Panthers at their home tournament, and accepted that he was partially to blame for not scoring on the day.
‘There is simply no explanation for the result today. We are extremely disappointed that we are out of the tournament especially that we are in front of our fans,’ the 27-year-old explained.
The 2015 African Player of the Year squandered one of the best chances of the match in the early stages, with a Denis Bouanga shot that found its way to the unmarked Aubameyang ahead of an open goal.
I usually score those opportunities in open play. I do not know what happened today.
Inexplicably, the talented former AC Milan youth product miskicked the ball, dragging it wide of the target. The disbelief was visible on his face.
‘I usually score those opportunities in open play. I do not know what happened today. I have no explanation to be honest. I do not even know how the Cameroon goalkeeper made the save in the stoppage time,’ Aubameyang added, referring to a last ditch save from Joseph Ondoa to keep the score goalless.
The striker will now return to Dortmund, disappointed not to be bringing back bragging rights, despite his two goals in the first two matches. In an Instagram post, Aubameyang wrote in French that he was proud to play with a group of men who’d done everything despite the circumstances.
The first round exit makes Gabon only the fourth host nation to fail to progress from the group stages, with the last being Tunisia in 1994.
With the hosts now out of the competition, tournament organisers are fearful that match attendances will dwindle further at an event that has already disappointed in terms of the local fans, even at Gabon matches.
Those remaining in the competition will be pleased to see the back of Aubameyang, as he posed a serious threat in attack.
The likes of Senegal, Egypt, Ghana and Cameroon look impressive thus far.
The likes of Senegal, Egypt, Ghana and Cameroon look impressive thus far, with the Indomitable Lions, Black Stars and Teranga Lions already through to the knockout stages of the competition.
While the lead-up to the competition was fairly shaky for Avram Grant’s Ghana, they are looking stronger by the minute, while Sadio Mané and Senegal have a point to prove in Gabon, with an incredible attacking lineup that would scare any defensive unit in world football.