Cautious Bafana coach Stuart Baxter wary of the artificial pitch in Seychelles
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has admitted that the artificial pitch they expect to encounter in Seychelles could pose a challenge for his charges when they face the Indian Ocean islanders away from home at the Stade Linite in Victoria in the return leg of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Tuesday afternoon.
Bafana gained a morale-boosting 6-0 victory in the first leg with five different players - Thulani Hlatshwayo‚ Lebo Mothiba‚ Percy Tau‚ Dino Ndlovu‚ Teboho Mokeona - scoring the goals after Seychelles defender Nigel Hoareau had opened the scoring with a spectacular own goal at a rain-soaked FNB Stadium on Saturday.
The South Africans are now top of Group E with seven points at the halfway mark of qualification‚ one point ahead of Nigeria‚ who also thrashed Libya 4-0 in Uyo on Saturday.
Baxter’s team need to repeat their demolition job on Seychelles on Tuesday to ensure that they are still in the driving seat when they host the Super Eagles in Johannesburg on November 16 in Johannesburg.
Bafana would perhaps only need a point to ensure qualification for the Afcon finals in Cameroon in June next year if they hand Seychelles another comprehensive thumping on Tuesday.
“I spoke to the Nigerian coach (Gernot Rohr) when we were at the Fifa awards in London and he said their pitch (Seychelles) is not the nicest to the player.
“He said that the ball‚ when it came down‚ was bouncing as high as it was before‚” explained Baxter.
“So it will certainly be a difficult game. We may need to tweak our tactical approach.
“But I think if we show the same passion to get on the ball and play and move them about‚ I think we can do that on any surface.
“So I’m optimistic‚ but knowing that it will be difficult and different.”
Bafana were to fly directly to Seychelles on Sunday afternoon for the return leg and Baxter said he would be looking for nothing less than more three points in Victoria against the 189th-ranked islanders who never troubled Bafana on Saturday.
“This victory (against Seychelles on Saturday) gives us more optimism that we are on course‚” said the Briton.
“I hope it encourages the public that we scored six goal regardless of who we were playing against.”
Baxter said he expects Seychelles to employ a better approach at home‚ something that will be different to what they did on Saturday when they tried to thwart Bafana efforts by having 10 men behind the ball.
“I will tell you what‚ they created two massive chances against Nigeria at home (when they lost 3-0 last month)‚” said Baxter.
“They tried to play and they were better on their pitch.
"So I think they would be hoping that the first 15 minutes at their place would see them having the ball a lot and us struggling.
“If they are buoyed by that‚ they will think if they can create a couple of chances and defend a little better‚ than they have a chance.
“But it’s up to us to kill that optimism and we got to do that.
“We’ll have to see what mistakes Nigeria did and we have to decide how offensive we’re going to be. But I don’t think there’s any real reason for us to sit back.”