Stuart Baxter looking forward to a game that could determine his and Bafana's fate
Stuart Baxter is adamant that his Bafana Bafana charges are still on track to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon despite their lucky escape against Nigeria at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Bafana emerged with a fortuitous 1-1 draw in their penultimate qualifier in a match that the Super Eagles could have easily won 3-1 had Gambian referee Bakary Papa Gassama not ruled out two goals from the visitors that looked to be legitimate.
The Nigerians did not appear to be too bothered about the disallowed goals as the point they earned in front of over 20,000 fans in Johannesburg guaranteed their qualifying ticket to Cameroon.
While Bafana now face a tricky away encounter against Libya in March next year‚ Baxter said he was looking forward to a match that could define and possibly decide his fate as Bafana coach.
Bafana need to avoid defeat in their final match as they have a two points advantage over the Libyans who defeated Seychelles 8-1 on Saturday to remain third on Group E with seven points.
Had Bafana won at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban against the Libyans (0-0) in September‚ their qualification might have been confirmed by now.
Bafana also blew a similar opportunity when they played a 0-0 draw away to minnows Seychelles last month but Baxter still believes they have qualification on their hands.
“I said to the players after the match (against Nigeria) in the dressing that on one hand I’m very proud and on other I’m very frustrated‚” said Baxter after Saturday’s result earned Bafana their third draw in five qualifiers.
“I was proud that we are sitting here with no defeat and we have taken four points out of our two encounters against Nigeria‚ and (yet) we had seven players missing.
“Disappointed‚ frustrated but at the very same time I’m proud of the boys and I thought the gentleman (Percy Tau) on my left was the best player on the field by a country mile.”
On whether Bafana are capable of overcoming the threat posed by a Libyan side that was unlucky not to get a goal or two in Durban in September‚ Baxter quickly pointed to their 2-0 away win over Nigeria in the opening round of the qualifiers in June last year as an indication of what his charges can do.
“Same as when we went to Nigeria and got a victory‚” was Baxter’s confident response when he was asked about the Libyan match that could be played in a neutral venue in Tunisia or Egypt in four months’ time.
“I think you’ve got to have a clear cut plan and be brave to go out and do the job.
"I think the players have shown in every other game above the Seychelles game away which was on an anomaly pitch.
“You need to score on that pitch (in Seychelles) or otherwise it ends up like we had it. And we didn’t score that goal to bring them out.
“They stuck at it and just kept kicking the ball everywhere and went down injured and the referee didn’t help us.”
Baxter insisted that everyone‚ including the SA fans must have faith in his team and have belief that they are capable of eking out the needed result against Libya.
“I have to say that it’s a shame that we can’t talk about do we think we’re going to win that game against Libya based on the fact that I thought the boys played some excellent football (on Saturday)‚” Baxter asserted.
“We are refining‚ I think.
"What I think we are good at and if we keep on doing that then I don’t think there’s any reason we shouldn’t be looking forward to the game (against Libya).
“It will be like a knife of throat job but that’s the game that you want to play.
“We are well aware of the minefield that we are going to if we go to Libya but I hope we deal with that. I’m certainly looking forward to it.”