Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter believes Mamelodi Sundowns will go through to the Caf Champions League final this afternoon (3pm), as they take on Wydad Casablanca in the second leg of their semifinal at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville.
Masandawana trail 2-1 from the first leg and know a 1-0 win at home will see them through, as will any other victory by two goals or more. If the game finishes 2-1 to Sundowns, there will be no extra time, and the match will go straight into a penalty shoot-out.
Baxter has been impressed by the way Sundowns have been able to adapt to the different challenges they have faced on the continent.
“I think Sundowns have done a fantastic job so far, their players are more and more adept at dealing with all the situations you get on the continent,” he said.
“Pitso Mosimane has a great balance within his team and the knowledge they have on the continent now is outstanding … they can play in different ways, they play more and more with this sort of false nine, with Lebo Maboe dropping in and spinning out and playing in behind. A lot has changed in the way they play as people have moved on. Percy Tau has gone, Khama Billiat has gone, so they have brought some players in that haven’t worked and they have seen they have to change. I think they have been good at finding solutions.
“I thought Sundowns did well in the game in Rabat, the away goal gave them a huge advantage going into this return game. I think Wydad will be nervous about how to approach the game. They know that if you sit and try and park the bus for 90 minutes, Sundowns have the players that can unlock you. Will they (Wydad) come out and go gung-ho and try to get a goal? I doubt it. I expect Sundowns to go through … I wish Pitso’s boys all the best.”
Baxter is slightly wary, however, of the suggestion that the experience of the Sundowns players in the Champions League can help Bafana Bafana at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in June.
“If you ask Tiger Woods what the most difficult thing in golf is, he will tell you it is playing in the Ryder Cup, not the US Open. It is a bit like that with Sundowns, they have become very adept in Caf competitions and their players are very experience.
“Of course it spills over and I can use that in the national team, but still, playing for the national team, all the nation’s eyes are on you and it is another form of pressure.”
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