• Managing expectations key for Baxter, Bafana

    Stuart Baxter, coach of Bafana Bafana

    With Bafana Bafana set to participate in their first major tournament since 2015, it will be key that Stuart Baxter and his team are judged accordingly, with the English coach looking to lay a platform for future success, writes DEAN WORKMAN.

    South Africa is a country filled with passionate sports fans, and when a national team fails to perform, no matter the sporting code, the fans are not so forgiving.

    Expectations need to be managed when it comes to Bafana, though, who have been drawn in tough group alongside Morocco, Ivory Coast and Namibia.

    While Baxter has been positive about his side’s ability to compete with the teams in their group, and even qualify for the knockout stages, he also has looked to calm expectations and rather focus on making the country proud, while also helping Bafana continue on their path of development.

    ‘If we go to Afcon with the mentality of they [the other teams] don’t think we are that good, well, let’s go show them. If they think, well, South Africa haven’t done anything in a long time, well, let’s go do something. If we represent the country like that, I’m sure they will be proud of us,’ said Baxter when he named his provisional squad in May.

    Baxter has looked to breed continuity in this Bafana set-up and to allow the squad to develop through experience, instead of chopping and changing with players who are in form for their clubs.

    With the likes of Percy Tau, Thembinkhosi Lorch (both 25), Lebo Mothiba (23), Bongani Zungu (26), Lebohang Maboe (24) and Rivaldo Coetzee (22) all forming a vital part of this squad, they will be getting their first taste of an international tournament, in Egypt, which is the next step on the path Baxter is attempting to follow.

    Bafana’s Cosafa Cup team, which was made up of younger players while the first team began preparations for Afcon, may have fallen to defeat against Botswana on penalties, but they bounced back to claim a penalty shoot-out win against Uganda to advance to the plate final.

    Although the results were not ideal, the Cosafa Cup squad was made up of players for the future such as Luther Singh (21), Teboho Mokoena (22), Liam Jordan (20), to name a few, who showed they have the potential to step up to the first team.

    I am by no means suggesting that an abysmal performance in Egypt should be overlooked or disregarded, but Baxter has been building a Bafana side that has shown an improved mentality and a better fighting spirit.

    If Bafana go to Egypt and fight for every inch and simply lose to a bad call or better team, it should be taken in the context from where the team currently sits.

    Continuity breeds success. Both Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino have proven it with their teams this year, and if Bafana want to qualify for the next World Cup in Qatar 2022, they should be allowed to continue on their path of development.

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