It is almost exactly a year ago that Stuart Baxter walked into post-match press conference at Moses Mabhida Stadium, a picture of incandescent rage after his side’s World Cup 2018 ambitions had all-but imploded with a 2-1 loss at home to the Cape Verde Islands.
Today, Bafana Bafana are back in Durban, at the same venue, and again they are facing an opponent most would expect them to beat, as they take on Libya in a 2019 Caf Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
The picture in terms of qualifying for Cameroon 2019 is bright for Bafana, after winning their opening qualifier in Nigeria in June of last year. And yet, if Bafana cannot beat Libya, the spotlight on Baxter’s position is only likely to intensify.
Since beating the Super Eagles, the Bafana head coach has, after all, lost four out of five qualifiers, in a feeble bid to make it to Russia.
“I think the two Cape Verde (Bafana lost away and home in a the space of a few days) games colour what has happened drastically,” said Baxter, when asked yesterday at Bafana’s final training session if a win over Libya could be a fresh start for him personally.
“I do think people find it very difficult to put to one side the disappointment about those two games and look at the other games in the correct way. It would help me (to win), but it is not about me, it is about taking South Africa to a major tournament (in Cameroon).
“I have been in Sweden and different countries, and I was here during the World Cup … I have seen the effect qualifying has on people and that is my motivation. The fact that people think Stuart Baxter is the flavour of the month if we win, lose or draw this game is totally irrelevant.”
Baxter did admit that his side must not make the same mistakes they made against Cape Verde in Durban, if they are to succeed against Libya.
“Against Cape Verde, we go a goal down and our reaction is a bit rabbit in the headlights, that is what we have to avoid. We have to make sure we play for 90 minutes. There are no unfancied teams anymore,” said the Bafana coach.
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