Rustenburg – Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi admitted after his side's 2-1 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final defeat to Nigeria that they failed to live up to expectations.
“The goal was to win this Afcon tournament, but unfortunately we didn't do it,” Lamouchi said after the game in Phokeng, near Rustenburg, on Sunday evening.
“It's disappointing for the players and myself. I'm accountable, we've lost, but we've played. We did what we were supposed to do. The players were there and they were trying to catch up.”
Goals by Emmanuel Emenike and Sunday Mba in each half sent the Super Eagles into the semi-finals, while the Ivorians, the tournament favourites, bombed out.
After Cheick Tiote cancelled out the opener from Emenike, Mba regained the advantage with 12 minutes left before a late flourish from Ivory Coast, but it was not enough to unsettle the young Nigerian side, who held on for a famous victory.
The Ivorians welcomed back African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure and the rest of their stars, following a rest during their last group fixture.
Lamouchi made eight changes to the starting line-up that did duty in Ivory Coast's 2-2 draw with Algeria last week – their last group stage fixture of the tournament.
“My selection was the best one. I banked on my players to do what was expected of them,” he said.
“I am convinced that it was the right team on the night. We had time to analyse the choices and circumstances (of the game). Two days ago, I said that we had to make 150 percent effort against a great team like Nigeria.
“We played an open game, we had team work, we did what we were supposed to do but we were unlucky.”
The former France international added that he was sad to see his talented side fail at the first knockout hurdle, hinting that several players had passed their prime and would be in danger of not being selected for the next Afcon tournament due to their age.
“For some of the players, it might be a last chance, if I read your articles, this is certainly the case,” Lamouchi told reporters.
“For me it is very sad because I saw the players work for a month, I thought we were on the right track, doing a good job and it was not enough.
“We lost, yes, but I knew that we would do something. Unfortunately it's a game that we lost and that's it.”
Shifting his attention to life after the tournament, Lamouchi was not considering handing in his resignation.
He said he would continue to work with the team and focus on their next assignment of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“It was my first Afcon and I had the same goal as the players (to win the tournament),” Lamouchi said.
“But for me this is my first defeat in 10 matches. Losing is also part of the job.
“Regarding my resignation, I'm not even thinking about it.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal winger Gervinho – who starred for the Elephants with two goals in the tournament – failed to make an impact.
He, however, believed his side were unfortunate not to be rewarded for their efforts on the day.
“We were focused to score a goal,” Gervinho said.
“Nigeria scored their second goal from a counter-attack, we were trying to score again, but they were lucky and they scored.
“Our goal was to win the game. We tried our utmost to win but we've lost it.
“We were unlucky once again and we lost.” – Sapa