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Downcast Eto'o bemoans missed opportunity

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PRETORIA (Reuters) -- A despondent Cameroon captain Samuel Eto'o said his side, the highest ranked African team at the World Cup, had missed a great opportunity to do something special after they exited the continent's first World Cup.

Cameroon lost 2-1 to Denmark on Saturday night despite taking an early lead and playing some excellent soccer, leaving it to fight just for pride in their last match against the Netherlands on June 24. The side, African soccer's most experienced challengers playing in its sixth World Cup, will also face some tricky questions when they return home after its campaign became marred by a row between senior players and coach Paul Le Guen.

"This was a great opportunity to do something big but it wasn't to be," Eto'o told reporters, minutes after the game. "God is the only one who rules in this moment and he wanted it to turn out like this."

The Indomitable Lions played fast, entertaining and attractive football against the Danes in Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld stadium and they went ahead after 10 minutes with an Eto'o opener.

But they lacked the killer touch from there on and failed to convert any of their many chances, falling behind to goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl. Their players fell to the ground in shock after the final whistle blew.

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The performance, however, was a marked improvement from Cameroon's first match, which it lost 1-0 to Japan, after coach Le Guen reshuffled his line up following complaints from his senior players.

Frenchman Le Guen said he had no regrets over his selections for the two games and said he had no intention of resigning.

"All teams are difficult to manage," he said. "It's a great job, even in this case, it's a great job."

Le Guen, who had earlier challenged his players to show some of the "lion spirit" they were always talking about, said his side had shown the right attitude throughout the match and added he hoped they would reproduce that against the Dutch.

"Whilst my contract is running I'll do my very best for the Cameroonian football federation," he said. "I hope they will defend the national colors of the team."

He said repeatedly that qualifying for the World Cup had been an achievement in itself but that is unlikely to be good enough for a side which reached the quarterfinals in 1990 and symbolized the dynamism and excitement of African soccer.