Cape Verde pitch conundrum for Bafana Bafana coach Baxter
Bafana Bafana will try to use an Astroturf surface in Praia that coach Stuart Baxter describes as “not the best” to their advantage for a counterattacking game in their 2018 World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde.
The national team travelled to the islands off the coast of West Africa aware that a win against Cape Verde at the 15 000-seater Estadio Nacional de Cabo Verde on Friday night‚ then again in Durban on Tuesday‚ will leave Bafana in the driving seat to reach Russia 2018.
Bafana were always going to play a counterattacking game in the away fixture.
Baxter said the artificial surface might be conducive to that.
“The surface is not one of the best Astroturf surfaces. But what it will do is when you play on it regularly as they do you become short‚” the coach said.
“The best way I can describe it is that there was a manager in England who described his team’s way of playing when they went from grass to Astroturf as: ‘Our long passes became shorter’.
“You become a shorter (passing) team. And players playing in Portugal will also play a shorter game.
“Not that they don’t play any long balls‚ but the game becomes shorter. And I don’t think it’s a great surface‚ so that could mean that there are big possibilities for us to produce some transitions against them.
“But that will depend on how well we defend and how well we pass the ball ourselves on a difficult surface.
“I’ve spoken to two people who have experience of the pitch‚ and they’ve said that it looks a lot better than it really is. It’s not one of the more modern artificial versions.”
Bafana trained on the artificial surface of the Nike Training Centre in Soweto on Monday before their departure for Cape Verde on Tuesday morning.
Cape Verde‚ ranked 114th in the world‚ have strengthened their national team sourcing players with birth rights in Portugal‚ resulting in a quarterfinal place at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and qualification in 2015.
They did not qualify for Gabon 2017.
South Africa are in second place on goal difference with four points in Group D to Burkina Faso.
Cape Verde have lost their first two games‚ 2-0 away against Senegal and by the same scoreline at home against Burkina Faso.
South Africa drew 1-1 against Burkina Faso away then beat Senegal 2-1 at home.
If the South Africans can win both matches against Cape Verde‚ then beat Burkina Faso at home on October 7‚ they might be able to wrap up qualification before their away match against Senegal on November 11.
If Bafana come away with four points against Cape Verde then the group is likely to go down to the wire.