LUANDA, January 25 – Not for the first time Didier Drogba and his Ivory Coast teammates turned up at the Africa Cup of Nations wearing the mantle of favourite only to flatter to deceive.In 2006 the Elephants suffered a shattering 4-2 penalty defeat to Egypt in the final in Cairo.
Two years later in Ghana they came up short once again to the Egyptians, losing 4-1 to the defending champions in the semi-finals.
Fast forward to Angola 2010 and the Ivory Coast were sent packing yet again by a side from North Africa, this time Algeria proving their nemesis with Sunday’s 3-2 extra time quarter-final loss in Cabinda.
Algeria coach Rabah Saadane summed up the disbelief at this latest Africa Cup of Nations’ disappointment when he said: "I wasn’t surprised by my team, but more by the decline of the Ivory Coast side."
Ivory Coast coach Vahid Halilhodzic was mystified at his multi-millionaire stars’ latest example of ‘choking’.
"Great teams do not let a 2-1 lead a few minutes before full-time slip like that," said the Bosnian-born former Yugoslavian international who was suffering his first competitive defeat since taking over Ivory Coast in 2008.
He added; "It is unacceptable. We had opportunities to kill off the match before that and we are all really stunned. We came here with great hopes and as is always the case Ivory Coast has failed to deliver.
"It is imperative that everyone assumes their responsibility for this, me to start with.
"We have five or six really good players but we lost every duel. It is not a physical problem it is a mental one. I do not have all the answers but I am ashamed with regard to how we played and apologise to the Ivorian public who really believed in us."
"Is the problem physical or psychological? It cannot be physical because when you are one goal up with only one minute left, you just sit back and clinch victory. Algeria deserve their victory."
Drogba and his teammates would be wise not to look at the local press in Abidjan, with headlines like "huge disappointment", "broken dream", "sunk" revealing the country’s mood.
"Elephants-Fennecs – the end of illusions" wrote Une Fraternite Matin.
Le Patriote pointed the finger at Chelsea star Drogba.
"Who said this generation wasn’t dead? Our attack was handicapped by a below-par Didier Drogba..and a midfield lacking in imagination".
One sponsor though was looking on the bright side and to a better peprformance in South Africa.
"The best is yet to come" stated a full page ad in L’Intelligent.