LIBREVILLE– Hosts Gabon made a disappointing exit from the African Nations Cup on Sunday, foiled by the woodwork in the final minute as they missed out on the win over Cameroon which would have allowed them to grab a dramatic place in the quarter-finals.
Instead Burkina Faso and Cameroon advance from Group A, leaving Gabon with the ignominy of becoming the first home nation to be eliminated in the first round since Tunisia in 1994.
Burkina Faso topped the group on goal difference after a 2-0 victory over Guinea Bissau in Franceville on Sunday with a fortuitous own goal from Rudinilson Silva and a second-half strike from Bertrand Traore, the Chelsea striker on loan at Ajax Amsterdam.
“It is very sad for all of us but each player gave 100 percent,” said Gabon captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed a glorious chance in the opening five minutes at Stade L’Amitie in Libreville.
The hosts started furiously and finished with a late flourish that saw Denis Bouanga strike the upright deep in stoppage time and the rebound from Didier Ndong saved by Cameroon’s 21-year-old goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa, who burst into tears at the end of the game as his team mates enveloped him in celebrations.
Cameroon now play Senegal in the quarter-finals but Burkina Faso’s opponents will be decided when the standings in Group B are settled on Monday.
Senegal, already guaranteed top place, play Algeria in Franceville in a quarter-final on Saturday while Tunisia need just one point from their match with Zimbabwe in Libreville to set up a weekend meeting with Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso went ahead early against Guinea Bissau as centre back Rudinilson put the ball in his own net in the 11th minute and Traore scored on the counter early in the second. But Guinea Bissau again proved competitive as they concluded their maiden appearance on the Nations Cup stage.
It is the first time that four-times winners Cameroon have progressed to the quarter-finals since 2010. Their success comes despite eight players turning down a call-up last month, leaving coach Hugo Broos with what he called a B-team for the tournament.
“It is a young team that wants to play for the country, not just come because they have been called up by the coach. Now anything is possible,” he said after Sunday’s game.