23 June 2019 – Bafana Bafana coach, Stuart Baxter said this squad was not afraid of anyone and if they play to their full potential were capable of beating the best teams on the continent.
Speaking at a pre-match press conference in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, the South African Men’s Senior National team coach said this squad was humble, hardworking and deserved the respect of the continent.
He said the squad has had no injuries; something he said was really satisfying.
“We don’t have any injuries in camp and these players have worked very hard and I think at this moment they are looking forward more than they are nervous, awaiting the first game.
“We have some ups and downs in our preparations, just like any other team, but the players feel in good space and we are looking forward to the Ivory Coast game,” said Baxter.
He said the team was in good spirits and were raring to go.
“There might be times where South African national teams might have been accused of not achieving what their potential deserves in the field because of not having the right focus. That will not be the case with this group of players. This group of players have very small ego and very great South African heart. They enjoy playing for their country and I am sure they are going to give it their best,” he said.
“We are playing against the best teams on the continent which we have in our group. We need not get intimidated but to play with respect and at the same time, give the opponents the respect they deserve but never fear them. We have to be better than they think, we have to be quicker than they think, better organised than they think and if we can do that, then I think they will then have to rethink their game plan,” he said adding that Bafana Bafana will not sit back.
“You can’t sit back and hope they will make a few mistakes because once the machine is rolling it is difficult to stop them. So yes, we got to respect what they can do but also make sure they have to deal with something we can do.”
He said the team was prepared for any eventuality including the predicted heat of Cairo.
“If it is hot, we have to have a game plan. If it is too hot, you can’t press for 90 minutes it is not realistic. We have to manage the hydration nutrition, we have been talking a lot about this and the second thing is we have been training in Dubai to get used to the heat. We can handle it unless it goes out of the scales but I think we can handle the heat.”
South Africa would not be intimidated by the Ivorians physicality and despite having some great players who play in big leagues across the world, Bafana Bafana need to play their own game.
“We have played good teams before. Nigeria has good players but we beat them 2-0 away. What you will see is a humble South African side. We are not favourites to win the tournament but what you will not see is a South African side afraid of its opponents. This is a side that can match any side in this tournament,” concluded Baxter.