• Baxter refuses to discuss future after Afcon exit

    Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter

    Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter believes his side weren’t brave enough against Nigeria as they exited the Africa Cup of Nations, but remains vague about his future with the national team.

    Bafana struggled to reproduce their intensity against Egypt in the first half against Nigeria on Wednesday evening as Samuel Chekwueze’s 27th-minute strike sent the Super Eagles into the break 1-0 up.

    Baxter’s men responded well in the second half, though, as Bongani Zungu headed home his second of the tournament from a Percy Tau set piece with a helping hand from VAR after the goal was initially ruled out for offside.

    However, Bafana suffered late heartbreak as William Troost-Ekong’s strike popped up from a corner with just one minute remaining to poke home and send his side into the semi-finals.

    Speaking to the media after the game, Baxter admitted that his side were not brave enough when committing to the pressing gameplan which meant there was space in between the lines, which Nigeria took advantage of.

    ‘We weren’t brave enough in the first half, we did it without compromise against Egypt, we ended up being a bit 50-50 and they ended up playing in between us,’ Baxter said.

    ‘I said at half time we need to be braver, we need to commit to pressing or we need to commit to dropping off and I also thought that our possession was too slow, but then we opened the game up better.

    ‘And even though we didn’t get into those goal-scoring situations, we were always threatening them, I think that’s what we changed and that’s what we did better. We had a game in the second half.

    ‘We knew that, I would have liked to have changed a little bit for Nigeria, but the confidence was so high after Egypt that if you change, you run the risk of the players not being on board. So we went with the same type of game but we just didn’t drop off at the right times we got chasing the ball and they got in between us.’

    Baxter also believes his side have struggled with penetration in the tournament, which they have to learn from.

    ‘Our penetration play in the tournament has not been the best, that is usually one of our strengths, where we launch our attacks from is important, when we have spaces to launch our attacks from we’re very good.

    ‘When teams close down, close ranks, we find it difficult. But I thought we picked our way out in the second half very well without getting our runners in and that’s something they’ve got to learn from.

    The British coach was then quizzed over whether he will continue as South African national team coach to which he responded ‘just about’, but refused to elaborate.

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