‘Some­times you think they don’t want it enough but many times it’s the op­po­site – they freeze’

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT&RACING - MA­ZOLA MOLEFE

AHEAD of a must-win 2018 World Cup qual­i­fier against Burk­ina Faso at FNB Sta­dium this af­ter­noon, Bafana Bafana coach Stu­art Bax­ter’s fi­nal words – to the press and pub­lic at least – hours be­fore this mas­sive clash were that he wanted “bal­ance”.

His men looked out of sorts in their last qual­i­fier, los­ing both away and at home and not show­ing any ag­gres­sion against a Cape Verde side that was ex­pected to be the whip­ping boys in Group D, which also in­cludes Sene­gal.

Bafana were com­pletely out of bal­ance then.

“I want a men­tal bal­ance, know­ing that this is an im­por­tant game, but be­liev­ing in the process, the game plan and be­ing here and now, not think­ing about if we don’t win what will hap­pen fur­ther down the line,” said Bax­ter, in his pre­match press con­fer­ence at the match venue yes­ter­day. “I think we have to take this as a game and then look at the next one af­ter that. But of course this is a do-or-die for us and one can say a World Cup fi­nal. We have tried to keep the game plan quite sim­ple, and tried to work on three or four points that the play­ers un­der­stand.

“I have to say that when you watch a team play, some­times you think they don’t want it enough, but many times it’s the ex­act op­po­site – they want it so badly that they freeze or so badly that they get anx­ious. When they are anx­ious they for­get what the in­struc­tions were and they look pas­sive, which is an over sim­pli­fi­ca­tion.”

There is ev­ery rea­son for Bafana play­ers, as well as Bax­ter, to be “anx­ious” for to­day’s World Cup qual­i­fier.

The back-to-back de­feats to Cape Verde last month (both end­ing 2-1 in favour of the is­landers) left them and the rest of South Africa reel­ing and fac­ing the high pos­si­bil­ity of not see­ing the na­tional team qual­ify for the global show­piece in Rus­sia next year.

Af­ter three matches, Bafana are bot­tom of the group with only a sin­gle point and face lead­ers Burk­ina Faso, who are con­fi­dent of reach­ing their first ever World Cup tour­na­ment.

Add to those dy­nam­ics that Bax­ter will have new back four given the ab­sence of cap­tain Thu­lani Hlatshwayo, Ramahlwe Mphahlele (knee in­juries) and Mu­lo­mowan­dau Mathoho (sus­pended).

“We can be as gung-ho as we like, go on at­tack wildly, be very pop­u­lar with the crowd and then lose 3-0. We’ve got to de­fend,” the coach ex­plained.

“We have done some work ob­vi­ously, but two and a half ses­sions to build a new back four, and with­out your cen­tral de­fen­sive mid­fielder Dean Fur­man, who is away (sus­pended), for an un­der­stand­ing be­tween the mid­field and de­fense, is a chal­lenge. We are go­ing to need to de­fend prop­erly and we hope the work that we have had to do is enough to give us the struc­ture. We hope that bal­ance is ok.”


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