Afcon 2017: Senegal 'baffled' by another early exit
The president of Senegal's football association says he's baffled by the country's continuing failure to win a maiden Africa Cup of Nations title.
Senegal were eliminated on penalties by Cameroon on Saturday as they contested their first quarter-final in 11 years.
"It is very difficult to understand why Senegalese football cannot win when you see the generation we had in the past and now," Augustin Senghor told BBC Sport.
"It is a very great equation for us."
Senegal, the highest-rated side in Africa by world governing body Fifa, had been tipped by many to win this year's competition in Gabon.
The Teranga Lions' sole appearance in a Nations Cup final came in 2002 when they were beaten on penalties by Cameroon after the game had ended goalless.
Players such as two-time African Footballer of the Year El Hadji Diouf, playmaker Khalilou Fadiga and the country's record scorer Henri Camara were all part of the side, which would reach the World Cup quarter-finals later that year.
Saturday night's match in the eastern city of Franceville was similar to the 2002 final, after also ending goalless, but this time it fell to Africa's most expensive player - Sadio Mane of Liverpool - to miss the vital spot-kick.
The 24-year-old was inconsolable after Vincent Aboubakar sent four-time champions Cameroon through shortly after.
"Some of the players were crying in the dressing room and we understand that," Senghor said.
"They were very deeply affected and are suffering very greatly. It was very difficult to find the right words to say to them.
"Mane was one of the players crying and you can understand. It is a kind of curse on the great players that they miss penalties in shoot-outs - and Sadio is the same.
"He is very, very upset."
Mane's effort was blocked by Cameroon's star player, goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa, sparking huge celebrations as the Indomitable Lions reached the last four for the first time since 2008 (when they lost the final to Egypt).
"He is sad but it is only natural," striker Moussa Sow told BBC Sport.
"He wanted to do something good and give pleasure to his nation. Sadio is a great player."
Senegal were looking to reach the semi-finals for the fourth time, having last managed to do so in 2006.
"We were supposed to go further in this competition because the team played very well in the group phase," said Senghor of the first team to qualify for the knock-out stage.
"When I look at the teams in the competition, I think we had the potential to go to the final. But we need to understand that our project is not just for this Nations Cup but for the future.
"This generation is very young and we need to organise ourselves and come back to try to the win the next Nations Cup (in 2019)."
Senghor also pointed to qualification for next year's World Cup as a major target, with Senegal currently second in Group D behind Nations Cup semi-finalists Burkina Faso, South Africa while Cape Verde prop up the table.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse suffered a second penalty shoot-out defeat to Cameroon having captained his nation in the 2002 final.
"I feel sorry for the players, who wanted to write their own piece of history," he told the Confederation of African Football website.
"It is a big disappointment for me and the entire team. I'm the first person to feel their pain. It is very hard for us in the dressing room, but we can raise our heads high."