Baxter says Bafana Bafana won ’with a knife at their throats’
Bafana Bafana beat Burkina Faso in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier with a knife at their throats‚ said coach Stuart Baxter in reference to the public and press backlash to last month’s defeats against Cape Verde.
Baxter got his team selection right‚ bringing in players with flair as South Africa overwhelmed Burkina 3-1 with their strength of skill and pace.
But in successive 2-1 defeats against Cape Verde last month‚ which left SA needing wins from their last three matches to reach Russia 2018‚ Baxter’s lineups were static and unconvincing.
The players too‚ were lethargic‚ and when news broke of some of them partying in the team hotel after the second match in Durban the noise in the public outcry reached a crescendo.
In his post-match press conference after the win at FNB Stadium on Saturday Baxter was asked whether he had conveyed to the players that one win against Burkina Faso still left the team bottom of the group.
“I certainly didn’t mention being bottom of the group‚ and I certainly didn’t mention that we’ve got a long way to go to Russia‚” the coach said.
“I think‚ directly after this game‚ these players have put up with some warranted criticism‚ some totally unwarranted criticism‚ and we tried put that right.
“But you’re trying to put that right with a knife at your throat. So going into this game with a knife at your throat and playing that well I think deserves praise rather than waving a warning flag.
“There will be plenty of time for that in the next few weeks. At the moment I’m just proud of the players‚ I’m proud of their attitude.
“We spoke about being ’24-hour professionals’. They will continue to be as professional as possible now. And we will continue doing our preparations to take every small chance that we can.
“But that will mean concentrating on what we are doing and not concentrating on everything that is being said around us.”
Baxter introduced his “24-hour professional” code of conduct for the players in the wake of the news of partying in Durban.
A sports psychologist‚ Martin Scheepers‚ was also brought in to work on SA's mental aspect ahead of the past weeked's game.
Bafana‚ with four points‚ need to beat Group D leaders Senegal (eight points) in Polokwane on November 10 and away in Dakar on November 14 to reach Russia 2018.