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Hosts Gabon crash out of Cup of Nations

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang trudges off after they crashed out of the 2017 African Cup of Nations. PHOTO/AFP

LIBREVILLE, Gabon, Jan 23- Africa Cup of Nations hosts Gabon crashed out of the competition in the group stage on Sunday after a goalless draw with Cameroon, who advance to the last eight.

Gabon were left to regret an inability to convert their chances at the Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville, including one spectacular early miss from star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Denis Bouanga then hit the post in the fourth minute of added time as they were held to a third consecutive draw in Group A, their hopes of winning the trophy for the first time on home soil ended in agonising fashion.

After a build-up to the competition marred by the withdrawals of key players, Cameroon go through as runners-up behind Burkina Faso and can look forward to a quarter-final against Senegal in Franceville next Saturday.

Burkina Faso, the runners-up in 2013, won the section after a 2-0 victory against Guinea-Bissau in Franceville.

Gabon, meanwhile, become just the fourth Cup of Nations hosts in 33 tournaments to be knocked out in the group stage.

The last side to suffer such an indignity was Tunisia in 1994.

Aubameyang had scored in each of the Panthers’ opening games but they could only draw 1-1 against both tournament debutants Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso.

However, the Borussia Dortmund striker was guilty of a glaring miss in the fourth minute, somehow putting the ball wide at the back post with the goal gaping after an inviting Bouanga cross.

Bouanga was the main threat for Jose Antonio Camacho’s side, and his overhit free-kick midway through the first half forced Cameroon goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa to back-track quickly and tip the ball over the bar and he crashed painfully into his own post in the process.

Sensing the chance to stick the knife into their central African neighbours, Cameroon had chances at the start of the second period, with Ambroise Oyongo coming close after Benjamin Moukandjo had teed him up from a free-kick.

Sebastien Siani, who netted in the Indomitable Lions’ win against Guinea-Bissau, also fired wide following good work by Christian Bassogog.

Meanwhile, the best Gabon could muster in the second half was another Bouanga set-piece that again nearly dropped under the crossbar and required some alert goalkeeping from Ondoa.

Time was almost up when Bouanga’s low shot beat Ondoa but came back off the post, the goalkeeper then making a superb reaction save to keep out the follow-up from Didier Ndong.

The Gabon players slumped to the turf at the end while Cameroon celebrated along with their sizeable support in the Libreville crowd.

-Burkina Faso top table and dodge Senegal-

Guinea-Bissau’s defender Juary Soares (R) challenges Burkina Faso’s midfielder Abdou Razack Traore during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group A football match between Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso in Franceville on January 22, 2017. KHALED DESOUKI / AFP

In the other group fixture, Burkina Faso struck early in each half to defeat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 Sunday, win Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations and dodge title favourites Senegal in the quarter-finals.

A Rudinilson Silva own-goal on 11 minutes gave the Burkinabe a lead in southeastern city Franceville that Bertrand Traore doubled 12 minutes into the second half.

Burkina Faso and Cameroon finished with five points each and the former topped the table on goal difference. Gabon came third with three points and Guinea-Bissau last with one.

The Burkinabe Stallions return to the Gabonese capital, Libreville, for a last-eight showdown with the Group B runners-up, probably Tunisia, next weekend.

Knowing a win would assure them of only a third knockout appearance in 10 attempts, the, Burkinabe attacked from the kick-off against surprise qualifiers Guinea-Bissau.

A defensive mix-up led to Silva conceding an own-goal and after Traore netted, Guinea-Bissau heads visibly dropped.

Burkina Faso finished fourth as hosts in 1998 and second behind Nigeria in South Africa four years ago.

They suffered two injury blows during the group stage with attackers Jonathan Pitroipa and Jonathan Zongo ruled out of the tournament.

If Tunisia do finish runners-up in Group B, they will set up a repeat of a 1998 quarter-final won by hosts Burkina Faso on penalties.

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