Bafana Bafana

Baxter boost for Bafana ranking

Stuart Baxter (Gallo Images)
Stuart Baxter (Gallo Images)

He looked the part and played the part. An articulate and urbane Stuart Baxter engineered what proved a shock victory for Bafana Bafana in launching his second tenure as national coach in the away African Nations Cup qualifier against Nigeria.

The outcome of what was a gritty all-round team effort is that Bafana are finally set to make significant progress out of the quagmire of mediocre World and African rankings that stand currently in 65th and 12th positions respectively - and have lasted for what seems an eternity.

What gives promise of a reasonably substantial Bafana improvement when FIFA releases new rankings next month is the fact that the 2-0 success against an admittedly mundane Super Eagles outfit was achieved in an away encounter and in an officially recognised competition - both factors designed to increase the allocation of points.

Seemingly unperturbed by the traditional immensity of the task at hand, Baxter's composure on the touchline seemed infectious as Bafana overcame early pressure and never flinched before systematically taking control of proceedings in the second period after a goalless opening half.

It was Bafana's first-ever victory over The Super Eagles in an official FIFA-recognised  competition - and only the second in more than a dozen matches overall.

Considering that the former Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United coach had taken full charge of the Bafana squad for barely a week, the tactical accord between coach and players was quite remarkable and prompted Baxter to admit it was one of the most satisfying successes of his long and varied career.

His team selections, substitutions and tactics were spot on, but as commendable, perhaps, was his candid after-match assessment that "one swallow does not make a summer" and it could prove retrogressive going overboard over the performance against Nigeria - a trend long ingrained in SAFA particularly and some previous coaches, to their cost, as well as players alike, with equally dire consequences.

So it will be revealing to see what happens at the Moruleng Stadium in the North West on Tuesday night when Bafana face Zambia in a friendly encounter - and  evidence is gleaned on whether the  advances exhibited in Nigeria are maintained.

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England 92/4 (28 ov)
Pakistan 326
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England 92/4 (28 ov)
Pakistan 326
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