Gabon are out of the Africa Cup of Nations following a 0-0 draw with Cameroon in the final round of Group A matches on Sunday.
The host nation needed a victory to book their place in the quarter-finals but were unable to avoid a third straight draw as Cameroon progressed as runners-up behind Burkina Faso, who beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0.
Chances were scarce in a feisty encounter but it was captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who wasted the best opening early in the first half, scuffing the ball wide from point-blank range with the goal at his mercy.
Gabon showed plenty of endeavour but created little else by way of clear-cut opportunities against a Cameroon side who went into the match as group leaders and needed only a point to assure themselves of a last-eight spot.
Jose Antonio Camacho sacrificed defender Lloyd Palun for an extra attacker in the form of Serge Kevyn in the closing stages but Denis Bouanga hit the post in stoppage time with Gabon’s best effort of the match, as they miss out on a place in the quarter-finals for the third time.
Cameroon go through unbeaten but behind Burkina Faso on goal difference, meaning they are likely to face in-form Senegal in the next round.
Gabon passed up two great chances to take the lead inside the first five minutes. Malick Evouna crossed straight into Fabrice Ondoa’s grasp after racing through towards the area, before Aubameyang produced the miss of the tournament, side-footing wide from barely two yards out following Bouanga’s low ball.
Adolphe Teikeu glanced a header wide from Edgar Salli’s cross before Ondoa clawed away a long ball from the top corner of his net, taking a heavy blow from the post in the process.
The home fans seemed to lose some of their verve as the half descended into scrappy mediocrity, with news of Burkina Faso’s opening goal against Guinea-Bissau likely to have filtered into the stands, and it was Sebastien Siani’s powerful strike past the right-hand post early in the second half that offered the next glimpse of a possible breakthrough.
Ondoa beat away another dangerous delivery from Bouanga but his goal lived a relatively unthreatened life as Gabon failed to provide any consistent service to Aubameyang, even after Camacho adopted a more gung-ho approach by throwing on Kevyn for the closing stages.
Gabon had managed only four shots – and none on target – as the clock ticked over into the 90th minute, with Cameroon battling hard to win consistent free-kicks with which to kill time in the hosts’ defensive third.
Hopeful long balls yielded nothing against Cameroon’s dominant backline and the travelling fans grew ever more deafening with every comfortable clearance and set-piece won.
Gabon almost snatched that vital goal with seconds to spare, with Bouanga rattling the base of Ondoa’s left-hand post before the keeper reacted brilliantly to tip Didier N’Dong’s rebound over the crossbar, and he could hardly contain his emotions at the final whistle that broke the hearts of the hosts.
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