Stuart Baxter says Bafana Bafana must lift their game against Libya
Bafana Bafana will have to lift their game to a significantly higher level when they take on unpredictable Libya in the return leg of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Sfax in Tunisia on Sunday.
Bafana need a draw from their final Group E game at the imposing 25,000-seater Stade Taïeb Mhiri to qualify for this tournament that will be hosted by Egypt between June and July.
Libya‚ who are hosting Banfana in neighbouring Tunisia due to the unstable security situation in their country‚ need an outright win to seal a place in the tournament.
Bafana drew 0-0 with Libya at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in September.
The Libyans displayed an iron defence and a dangerous counterattack‚ penetrating South Africa several times as Itumeleng Khune‚ who is not available this time around due to injury‚ had to pull off some acrobatic saves to keep his team in the game.
Coach Stuart Baxter admitted South Africa will probably need an improved performance in the away match to achieve a draw or a win.
“Looking at the game [in Durban]‚ which I have done many times since then‚ I wouldn't say they pierced us with their good play‚" the coach said.
“And when they did it was from flank play. Watching them play well in their other games‚ their successes were down the flanks.
"What they did do was they utilised some of our mistakes when we were getting a bit impatient and stretching ourselves.”
Having analysed that match in Durban‚ Baxter said they have learned some lessons about the Mediterranean Knights that will help in Sfax.
“So there were lessons to be learned there. So I've said‚ without revealing any of our strategy‚ that one of the things we are going to have to do is negate their flank play.
"And the other one is‚ what they didn't have that day was two strikers up against their centrebacks.
“We played 4-3-3‚ I remember‚ and I think that the three midfield players [Dean Furman‚ Kamohelo Mokotjo and Sibusiso Vilakazi] sat too deep‚ and didn't get up and support enough.
"So Libya played virtually four [defenders] versus three [attackers] in their last third.
"Percy [Tau] played No 9 in the first half‚ and was a bit flat. We brought on Bradley [Grobler] and didn't give him a good enough service.
"So the strike partnership of Percy and Lebo through the middle they haven't played against.
“I think‚ yes‚ we will have to be better than that game.
"And we will definitely have to be strong mentally. But I think we can. Because I think we should base that confidence on‚ for one people have struggled to score against us‚ and for another we have not been beaten.
"So now we want to take that with us and say‚ 'We think we're better. We know more about you'.
"So if we execute the gameplan I think we have a very good chance."
Vincent Pule and Keagan Dolly on the flanks‚ and Tau in the middle‚ were Bafana's front three in Durban.
SA's new big‚ physical centre-forward Mothiba was out injured for that game.
The Libyans are yet to encounter the exciting emerging strike partnership of Tau and Mothiba‚ and that‚ plus SA's now greater knowledge of the Knights should be advantages for Bafana as they seek a difficult result against compact‚ awkward opponents in North Africa.