Baxter can only survey wreckage after Bafana's disastrous World Cup campaign
Bafana Bafana’s World Cup campaign was lost in their defeats against Cape Verde‚ which ensured the South Africans went into Friday night’s qualifier against Senegal with a knife at their throats‚ Stuart Baxter has said
It was clear in the penultimate Group D qualifier at Peter Mokaba Stadium for Russia 2018 that South Africa were the team under pressure.
Senegal‚ with a point needed‚ and aware that they could still gain it in the return game at home in Dakar on Tuesday night‚ cold be as cool as a mountain breeze.
Bafana conceded a nervy opener to Diafra Sakho in the 13th minute‚ then played some scintillating football but could not relax in front of goal‚ as Themba Zwane forced a save and Lebogang Manyama hit the upright.
Then in the 38th minute it was all but over at 2-0 from Thamsanqa Mhize’s desperately unfortunate own goal.
But desperation was the theme for Bafana.
Their crippling back-to-back defeats against Cape Verde in September‚ the rebound 3-1 home win against Burkina Faso last month‚ had left them needing to beat Senegal twice.
Asked where the campaign had been lost‚ Baxter admitted: “No‚ it was Cape Verde.
“You can’t say it certainly‚ but if we only had two points more on the board going into this game‚ there’s much more of a knife at the throat of the other team‚ instead of us.
“And I think that may have been the difference between us relaxing and scoring in a period where we were playing really well‚ or clearing a ball.
“And I think that can be the difference. This was a do-or-die game because of those games [against Cape Verde]. It shouldn’t have been.
“But that’s history. And I said to the players that what I was pleased about is that the way Senegal played traditionally is not our forte [to deal with].
“To play against teams that sit deep and play quick on the break and have good quality front players who can take you on – that’s not the way South Africa like to attack. They like an open game and space to move in.
“And I thought that this is the best that we’ve played against a team that plays deep‚ to pick our way through after the first 15 minutes.
“And I thought that was encouraging. But again‚ this wasn’t the game where we lost the World Cup ticket.”
Senegal have an unassailable 11 points in Group D to qualify for Russia 2018 going into the now meaningless return match against Bafana in Dakar on Tuesday night.