Gabon’s forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group A football match between Gabon and Guinea-Bissau at the Stade de l’Amitie Sino-Gabonaise in Libreville on January 14, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS
AFP Sport looks at the biggest flops of the Africa Cup of Nations so far after the conclusion of the group stage in Gabon:
It might seem harsh on a player who scored both of his country’s goals at the competition. But Aubameyang did not live up to the sky-high expectations placed on him. The Borussia Dortmund striker, a former African Footballer of the Year, seemed distant for much of the time and was reluctant to talk to the media despite being the captain of the host nation. He was also guilty of a glaring miss early on in the draw with Cameroon that eliminated the Panthers. After his penalty miss that precipitated Gabon’s elimination in the quarter-finals as co-hosts in 2012, this was another disappointing tournament for the French-born star.
Gabon bowed out without losing a game but did little to win over a population lacking enthusiasm in the Cup of Nations at a time when the country is battling with a social and political crisis. Their inability to win a game — they drew all three matches — meant the late decision to sack coach Jorge Costa and replace him with non-French speaker Jose Antonio Camacho backfired. Aubameyang also blamed poor preparation, saying: “We were supposed to start on January 3, but we started a little bit late. We didn’t really have the time to prepare.” For only the fourth time, and the first since Tunisia in 1994, the hosts failed to make it past the first round.
Togo coach Claude Le Roy spoke for all his counterparts when he described the playing surface in Port-Gentil as “unworthy of hosting top-level football.” The shocking pitch in the port city was by far the worst of a bad bunch and was directly responsible for several injuries, including the knee injury suffered by Ghana’s Abdul Rahman Baba that ended his tournament in the first game. The Confederation of African Football were aware of the concerns but seemingly not enough to move the quarter-final due to be played there on Sunday. “This is the Cup of Nations, we need to try to improve things” said Togo skipper Emmanuel Adebayor.
Algeria were seen as one of the pre-tournament favourites. They had the newly-crowned African Footballer of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, in their ranks and a talented supporting cast around the Leicester City wizard. But Georges Leekens’ side went home without winning a game. A Mahrez brace only earned them a 2-2 draw with Zimbabwe in their opening match and a defeat to north African rivals Tunisia effectively ended their hopes before a 2-2 draw with Senegal ended their campaign. Algeria’s wait for a first Cup of Nations crown since 1990 goes on, and coach Leekens quit after their exit.
The reigning champions were another big-name group-stage victim. The Elephants came looking to defend the title they won in 2015 but this was a much-changed side. With a new coach in Michel Dussuyer and with a new generation of players replacing the likes of the Toure brothers and Gervinho, they could not win a game. A young side could only draw with Togo and DR Congo before a 1-0 defeat to a Morocco coached by their old boss Herve Renard sent them packing. For the fourth successive Cup of Nations, the holders are out before the knockout phase.