Baxter: Egypt clash won't overwhelm Bafana

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

Cape Town - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter believes their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) last 16 encounter against host nation Egypt won't 'overwhelm' his players.

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After winning only one of their three Group D matches, South Africa finished third behind Morocco and the Ivory Coast. Namibia ended their tournament in last place.

However, after Tuesday's final round of group fixtures, South Africa qualified for the next round via the 'best of the third-placed teams' route alongside Guinea, DR Congo and Benin.

Baxter and his charges will now face Egypt on Saturday, June 6 (kick-off at 21:00 SA time) at the Cairo International Stadium.

"It’s a great challenge. It’s the one the whole squad is looking forward to," said Baxter on the upcoming clash as quoted by the official SAFA website.

"I think the group (stages), for most parts have been tight, our group was really tight.

"(Every game) was seconds a way of being a different result. The people will think ‘well you know, you’ve got through the back door’ … we were seconds away (against Morocco) from getting through on our own power and people would’ve then said, ‘well that was a great performance, you know’.

"But that is what our game is about - perceptions - one refereeing decision or one missed shot or one mistake can change perception."

Baxter added: "We’ve got this opportunity now to play against the host nation in front of a load of people in a very, very hostile environment and that’s the time you want people to stand up and I think the group are looking forward to it."

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The Bafana players performed poorly in the three group matches, scoring one goal and failing to register a single shot on target against either Morocco and the Ivory Coast.

However, Baxter is confident that for Saturday’s clash he won't need to motivate the players as they will be up for the challenge.

"The word 'need' is not in our language, it’s not 'must', it's 'want' - it’s they want to go and they have strong reasons that they want to do it - that’s going to be the motivation... that they want very badly to get past this hurdle," he said when asked about the mood in the camp after it was confirmed that South Africa will play Egypt.

"I don’t think I have to change anything, I think we have to strengthen some things - our attacking play has not been at its best, our defensive play has been for the most part, very good - but we’ve got to add on to that a functioning attacking game.

"And against Egypt, I’m guessing they’re going to come at us, I’m guessing there’s going to be more space on offer (to attack) - so we believe that if we can up our attacking game by 15% then we’ll be able to give them problems.

"Now against the home nation, that may all fall to the ground they’ll overwhelm us, but I don’t think that is going to happen."

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The Scotsman said the Bafana players want to have 'revenge on themselves' for not performing at the required standard that is expected of them.

"We sat together watching the Mali game on the big screen... once it was over we knew that we’ll get Egypt, everybody was buzzing, they’re looking forward to it," Baxter continued.

"I don’t think mentally we have to lift them. Mentally, they know each game was very close in both the games that we loss.

"There’s a little bit of revenge on themselves, they know that they can do a little bit better and they know they can be more efficient - in the last third (in attack) they know they can improvise a little bit more and I think they are looking forward to that challenge.

"Does that translate into a guarantee that we are going to get a result? No, but I don’t think we’re going to have to do a massive motivational pump with them. They’re going to be up for this one no matter what I say."

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