11 November 2017 – Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter says while the end product in Friday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Senegal was disappointing, he believes his players matched Senegal man for man if not better.
The National Team mentor said it was unfortunate to concede an early goal in this must win encounter and when they were searching for the equaliser, conceded an unfortunate second goal which ultimately killed off any hopes of staging a comeback.
“What happened in the first 10 minutes is what we didn’t want to happen; conceding that early goal set us on the back foot. To compound the inopportune circumstances was our negative approach in the initial stages.
“We didn’t feed the frontliners urgently and by the time we did so, it was too late and Senegal had crowded us,” said Baxter.
“But we responded well after going down early and until the 40th minute when we conceded that second goal, we really played some good football. But going down 2-0 in the first half, I think with the way we (had) responded during that period, was a bit unfair,” he added.
Overall, Baxter feels the team’s performance was not rewarded with a positive result. He said he brought in Andile Jali and Siphiwe Tshabalala in the second half to try to bring some urgency upfront.
“I still believe had we taken all our chances, we could be speaking a different story altogether. But those are the finer margins of winning and not winning.”
The Bafana Bafana mentor said looking back, the team squandered a golden opportunity to seal a World Cup berth in the back to back defeats to Cape Verde adding the mentality of losing to minnows is something South Africa must shake off.
He said he has seen lots of positives from this team with a number of youngsters developing into potential future stars.
“I still believe we are not far off the top sides on the continent despite having a frustrating evening during the Senegal game. Going forward, certain older players will have to be phased out but I won’t make wholesale changes.”
He said the team would go to Senegal to play for the country and not just to fulfil the encounter. He said there was nothing like a rubber game when one dons national colours.
“You play for pride and for your country.”