Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan apologized to his country Monday for taking a break from international football but insisted he needed time away to recover from missing another crucial penalty at a major tournament.
The 26-year-old Gyan, whose decision to temporarily stop playing for Ghana was announced over the weekend, told South African website supersport.com that the break would help him "come back bigger and mentally stronger.''
Gyan had an early penalty saved in Ghana's semifinal loss to eventual champion Zambia at the recent African Cup of Nations, a second key mistake from the spot by the forward after his last-second miss against Uruguay in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup.
That error two years ago, when his penalty hit the crossbar in the last action of regular play, denied Ghana a piece of history as the first African team to make the last four of a World Cup.
The Black Stars went on to lose to Uruguay in a penalty shootout, while they went down 1-0 to the Zambians following Gyan's miss this month.
"As you can imagine, it's been very hard for me mentally to miss two important successive penalties for my country,'' Gyan said. "I never fully recovered from (the) 2010 World Cup and now (the) 2012 Afcon (African Cup of Nations).
"I want my country to know I love playing for them and I wouldn't be who I am without them. So they should give me some time to get myself back together.''
Gyan asked for support from Ghanaians after the country's football association said Saturday the verbal abuse he had received from fans at home following the African Cup disappointment prompted his decision to step down from international duty.
The Ghana Football Association added it was in talks with the striker to urge him to reconsider but Monday's comments suggested Gyan's mind was made up.
"I never intended to make a decision like this early on in my career, (but) psychologically I am down,'' he said. "A break to recoup my thoughts and emotions will aid me to come back bigger and mentally stronger.''
Ghana plays a friendly international against Chile at the end of February and faces Lesotho and then a rematch with new continental champion Zambia in June in qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup.
Gyan, who is on loan at United Arab Emirates club Al Ain from England's Sunderland, has not said how long he intends to be away from international football.