Bafana Bafana had a mammoth task of beating Senegal twice in order to qualify for the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup.
That proved to be an impossible task when Senegal put two goals past Itumeleng Khune to register their spot in the world stage showpiece. Head coach Stuart Baxter says that the team did not have enough sting to get past a possible task.
“It’s difficult for the team and difficult for the home country. We tried to get ourselves back into contention after those back to back losses to Cape Verde. The performance in the first half, it was amazing that we went 2-0 down because I thought we were better than them,” Baxter said.
“We didn’t have one class-act that could conjure up something out of nothing. We missed our chances. The second half we still created more chances than they did. But it all means nothing as we went down 2-0 and they go to Russia.”
Baxter believes that Bafana had a fair chance to beat the opposition but believes that his mandate was not one of getting the team to the World Cup but was to make sure that they at least qualify for the AFCON in 2019.
“My mandate was never about ‘qualify for the world cup or you go home’, I want to make sure that we’re making progress. I’ve seen some of the performances that we need to move more quickly. We need to make progress. We need to have everyone’s backing in the country, including SAFA and that’s the only way we’ll get better.
“Maybe I’m blue-eyed but I don’t think this team [Senegal] or Nigeria are better than us. They may have the big names but with the right sort of application we can certainly move forward.”
Bafana have to play the second match and last of their qualifier group four days later. This for Stuart may be a way to test his team and build on the positives he has.
“I want to look at the log first and see. Do we have a chance to be better than we are? If that’s the case we’ll play our strong side and try to win the game. I don’t think we had a lack of effort from the players. I may give a chance to a few lads who work very hard and haven’t had a game [time]. It’s a dead-rubber. It’s about pride for the shirt and pride for the results of the country. So we will go and do the best we can,” concluded the national team coach.