LUANDA - With the glaring exception of Ghana, none of the five World Cup-bound teams competing at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) left Angola with their reputations enhanced.
Ghana can look forward to South Africa with plenty of optimism after overcoming a horror injury list to make it to Sunday's final where they came unstuck, losing 1-0 to defending champions Egypt.
Coach Milovan Rajevic saw no fewer than eight inexperienced youngsters step up to fill the shoes of established absent players like Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah.
Ghana open their World Cup campaign against Rajevic's home country Serbia on June 13, and can justifiably fancy their chances of making it through a group that also includes Germany and Australia.
Ivory Coast turned up in Angola wearing the favourites tag but Didier Drogba's team flattered to deceive. The Elephants let a 2-1 lead over Algeria slip in the closing stages to go out 3-2 in extra time in the quarterfinals.
Coach Vahid Halilhodzic was mystified by his side's collapse.
"Great teams do not let a 2-1 lead a few minutes before full time slip like that," said the former Yugoslav international.
"It is unacceptable. We are all really stunned. We came here with great hopes and as is always the case, Ivory Coast has failed to deliver."
Nigeria also struggled to impress, labouring past Zambia in the quarterfinals only to fall to Ghana in the semis and then edge Algeria in Saturday's third-place playoff.
Coach Shuaibu Amodu reflected: "We have done well enough even though we may not have played to our full potential, but with longer preparations we can do a lot better. We improved with each game. We were not at our best in Angola but we can be better before the World Cup."
The Algerians started atrociously, being on the wrong side of a 3-0 thrashing by minnows Malawi. The Desert Foxes went some way to redeeming themselves by edging Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals but then pressed the self-destruct button in the semifinals.
Three of their players were red-carded as they suffered a 4-0 wipeout by bitter rivals Egypt to return home with plenty to think about ahead of South Africa where England are among their first-round rivals. - Sapa-AFP