Senegal face another period of confusion and uncertainty after their impressive revival under coach Amara Traore turned out to be a false dawn at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Traore has already said he wants to stay on and continue rebuilding the side, which reached rock-bottom with failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and Nations Cup tournaments and had been improving rapidly since then.
But that may sound like wishful thinking after his team, featuring two of Europe's most prolific strikers last season, were dumped out of the tournament by Equatorial Guinea's collection of European lower league players on Wednesday.
"I would like to continue, but the decision is not up to me," he said after his team created a hatful of chances against 151st-ranked Equatorial Guinea but failed to convert them and lost 2-1.
"This is a young squad which is still being built and needs consolidation.
"I have no reason to reproach my players, who played well and created countless chances. The ball simply did not want to go in."
"Equatorial Guinea had two real chances and scored from both of them," added striker Mamadou Niang. "It's created great frustration among the group."
Senegal, World Cup quarter-finalists in 2002, were considered title candidates when they arrived in Equatorial Guinea with a wealth of attacking riches, having qualified at the expense of Cameroon.
These including Moussa Sow, top scorer in Ligue 1 last season, Papiss Cisse, second top scorer in the Bundesliga last term, Niang and Demba Ba.
But 2-1 defeats to Zambia and then co-hosts Equatorial Guinea on a rain-soaked pitch in Bata on Wednesday spelled elimination with their final match against Libya still to come.
Even when things were going well on the pitch, with a run of 11 wins in 13 games last year, there were still problems off it for the Lions of Teranga.
In July, controversial striker El Hadji Diouf was banned for five years from all football-related activity in his home country following remarks he made about corruption in African football.
In December, Senegal's Nations Cup preparations were disrupted by a dispute between the football federation and sports minister over coach Traore's new contract.
The naming of the squad was delayed and two warm-up matches cancelled before the row was finally settled.
That may have contributed to their poor showing and Senegal were certainly caught napping in their opening game as they conceded two goals in the first half hour against Zambia.
Senegal reached their peak in 2002 when they reached the World Cup quarter-finals, beating holders France on the way, and the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.
They failed to build on that and a serious of setbacks culminated when they failed to qualify for both the 2010 World Cup and that year's Africa Cup of Nations.
Angry Senegalese fans responded to the double setback by attacking the football federation headquarters, smashing windows and torching a bus after a 1-1 draw with Gambia.
There were also riots outside the stadium where furious supporters set up burning barricades, tore down billboards around the stadium and clashed with riot police.
Traore took over in 2009 and rebuilt the side, leading them impressively through a tough qualifying group as they reached the 2012 finals with an unbeaten record.
It all came to nothing and the one thing he and his squad can be certain of is a hostile reception on their return to Dakar.comments