Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi has slammed the criticism aimed at captain Riyad Mahrez following the winger's penalty miss and the team's shock Africa Cup of Nations exit on Thursday.
The defending champions were dumped out of the tournament following their 3-1 defeat to Ivory Coast on Thursday. Goals by Franck Kessie, Ibrahim Sangare, and Nicolas Pepe ensured that the Ivorians came out victorious despite a consolation strike by Sofiane Bendebka for the North Africans.
Scroll through the gallery above to see some top players who have been eliminated from Afcon 2021 already
The Desert Foxes came into the competition as one of the favourites to win it as they were on a 34-game unbeaten run, but their hopes quickly evaporated as they managed to pick up just one point in their three group fixtures.
"This is something we have to swallow. It is hard for us because we are not used to losing. It is a bitter taste. It is horrible," coach Belmadi said after Algeria's loss to Ivory Coast on Thursday, per Ahram Online.
Manchester City star Mahrez missed a penalty in the 59th minute of the match, when his side was three goals down, and has since been heavily criticised for his performances at the continental showpiece.
There have also been suggestions that the team captain was allowed to take a holiday before the tournament instead of joining the rest of his teammates at their training camp, but Belmadi was having none of that.
"Don't go and point the finger at players who have given you so much happiness," he said.
"When things are not going well, you start to point the finger at him (Mahrez)or me.
"Did you want me to drop him to the bench? I didn't change things. I left him in the team. When you talk about holidays, you are at the very least ill-informed and, at worst, dishonest."
Read: Ivory Coast send Algeria crashing out
The Desert Foxes will now move their focus to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the team in the play-offs for the global showpiece in Qatar.
"We will have to pick ourselves up, digest this, analyse it, and lift our heads up. The World Cup awaits and we will need to do better," Belmadi added.
Here are the 11 most valuable stars who went to Afcon 2021, per Transfermarkt