Benin coach Michel Dussuyer has praised his players despite their 1-0 loss to Senegal in the quarter-final of the competition.
Idrissa Gueye’s 70th-minute strike made the difference at the 30 June Stadium as the Squirrels ended their journey in the biennial tournament.
Despite their elimination, the 60-year-old boss is delighted with the effort of his side in the African finals.
“Of course the game was a big challenge against Senegal, one of the best teams in Africa but I’m proud of my players,” Dussuyer told Goal.
“We’re disappointed with the result - we can go back to Cotonou with satisfaction. I want to congratulate my players again for the spirit they showed in the match, these are always difficult challenges - Ghana, Cameroon, Morocco - the best players of the continent.
“We aimed to give the best of ourselves, to be the best organised possible. Our fans should be proud of our journey here, and I hope we’ve made all of the people proud.”
Benin have had an impressive campaign in the competition, qualifying for the Round of 16 from a group which consists of Cameroon, Ghana and Guinea-Bissau.
The Squirrels then went on to stun Morocco, one of the tournament’s favourites to reach the quarter-final of the competition for the first time in their history.
“I say straightaway, the boys should be proud of their journey, we’re always trying, looking forward, progressing. Every time we are at a training session, the players are there, intense, listening, so with this group we’re advancing,” he continued.
“Everyone should realise this. Of course, there’s a disappointment as the adventure ends, but as I’ve said to the players: hold [your] heads up and be proud of [your] performance. We’ve achieved a new level, and the competition will continue. We should be optimistic and realise our values, humility, work, and continue to advance.
“Of course we had the mission to go home as late as possible, although we knew we’d always end by going home! Of course, there’s a disappointment, but we’re proud of what the players have done. It’s a foundation upon which to continue to progress, to get better.”
Dussuyer believes the outcome of the game could have been different had they converted the opportunities they had against Senegal.
“We tried to put a mid-block, not a deep block. We were a bit too deep and didn’t get out quickly enough,” he added.
“There were moments that if we went a big higher, we’d leave too much space for Senegal’s fast attackers. We had opportunities at the start of the second half. They could have changed the scenario of the match.”
On his future with the Squirrels, he said: “I have a contract. I’m not thinking of the future, that’s how it is. I’ll think about it in a few days.”