30 May 2018 – Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter believes that after watching some of the matches in the 2018 COSAFA Cup tournament, they have to prepare for a very tough battle.
The South Africans have been in camp since Saturday, 26 May to prepare for the competition, which is currently underway in Polokwane.
The hosts will not be in action at the tournament until their quarterfinal clash on Sunday, 3 June when they face the winners of Group A – as one of the seeded teams, Bafana Bafana received a bye in the first round.
Madagascar, Mozambique, Comoros and Seychelles are in Group A, while Botswana, Angola, Mauritius and Malawi make up Group B.
Baxter has applauded the time he has with his players before their first match. Bafana Bafana won the tournament in 2016 and were knocked out in the quarterfinal stage last year.
“The pressure to get the result is the same, whenever the national team gets together everyone expects you to win. The week together gives us a little bit of time before the start of the tournament. Getting these players together and to have seven days on top for preparations, is already a victory – if they can kick on now and gel a little bit, it could be a good tournament for us for a change,” said Baxter, who addressed the media in Polokwane.
The 2018 COSAFA Cup kicked off on Sunday, 27 May, and this has given Bafana Bafana also a chance to watch some of the matches. But Baxter is not fully focused on the games, more so because their opponent in the last eight has not be identified.
“What we are looking for this week is to concentrate on our own strategies, take those on board and give a performance. We will give them (the players) information on the opposition, when we know it, and we will run the rule over every team in the competition just for the record, but I don’t want to go overboard in that sort of meticulous examination of the opponent. I want my players to use their strength and mental power to take on board what we want to do,” added Baxter.
“We played a little practice match on Monday, and already in that game you know some of the players are in awe of the event and some of them embrace very quickly, and so you can see very quickly the ones that look ready. If I was to guess the team after two training sessions, I think I have a decent idea now of the starting line-up.”
Despite not knowing their opposition, the Bafana Bafana mentor is however preparing for a tough battle ahead.
“The games have been very interesting, and some of them very physical, something that we saw when we played the COSAFA Cup last time. It seems people wind up for this sort of games and they don’t take them lightly,” said Baxter.
“I was surprised by the Mozambique vs Madagascar clash – I thought the former would be a little bit better (Madagascar won 1-0), and in the Seychelles vs Comoros encounter, the latter was better than what people expected, but we will watch again to see who we will face in the quarterfinal. In that group, no matter who we play, it is going to be a tough game and very hectic, so we have to make sure that we are prepared for that.”
South Africa and the winners of Group A will lock horns on Sunday, 3 June.
Kickoff is at 15h00.
The final takes place on Sunday, 9 June at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium.