Win over Nige­ria is one to cher­ish

I know how much this means, but we can’t get car­ried away – Bax­ter

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MA­ZOLA MOLEFE

AN O T H E R six years in the dugout and Stu­art Bax­ter would have been a foot­ball coach for half a cen­tury. You’d think with that ex­pe­ri­ence and longevity there are too many mile­stones to even make room for an­other land­mark.

But the Scots­man, 63, ad­mit­ted that Bafana Bafana’s first-ever win over Nige­ria in a com­pet­i­tive match, a 2-0 vic­tory in Satur­day’s 2019 Africa Cup of Na­tions qual­i­fier at the Godswill Ak­pabio In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium, was cer­tainly one to cher­ish.

Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau scored in the sec­ond half on Satur­day to end a 25year hoodoo the Su­per Ea­gles had over Bafana – the only other pre­vi­ous win by South Africa over Nige­ria was in a friendly match at El­lis Park in 2004, co­in­ci­den­tally in Bax­ter’s first spell as na­tional team coach.

“I said to the play­ers in the dress­ing-room, I drew 1-1 in Ger­many with Fin­land and they equalised in the last kick of the game and I was ab­so­lutely de­lighted be­cause that’s a mas­sive re­sult,” the coach said.

“Then I told them how I took a third-string Bafana to the US (Gold Cup in 2005) and beat Mex­ico. Those two (re­sults) have been the most sat­is­fac­tory per­for­mances I have had at na­tional level – un­til we beat Nige­ria. This was more sat­is­fac­tory be­cause it was in the back­yard of a team we have never beat, and I know how much that means to ev­ery­body back home. I know I have only just walked in at such short no­tice and the play­ers have grabbed ev­ery­thing we have said. Yes, it wasn’t per­fect in the first half, but it was bloody near per­fect in the sec­ond. They couldn’t get near us.”

Bax­ter ar­rived un­der great scep­ti­cism as Safa took five months be­fore ap­point­ing him as a re­place­ment for Shakes Mashaba, who was sacked for in­sub­or­di­na­tion two days be­fore Christ­mas. Bax­ter was only ap­proached when it be­came clear that the pre­ferred can­di­dates, Car­los Queiroz, Herve Re­nard and Hugo Broos, would cost too much money to hire.

Bax­ter, fol­low­ing his first of­fi­cial game, which was an ideal start in qual­i­fy­ing for the con­ti­nen­tal tour­na­ment to be held in Cameroon in two years’ time, isn’t get­ting car­ried away.

“We can get car­ried away as much as we want, and I un­der­stand that be­cause this was a good per­for­mance. But I got asked how good this team can be and I had to make sure this doesn’t go to our heads,” said Bax­ter. “If it was a bad per­for­mance I would have also not al­lowed it to go to my heart be­cause I know we pre­pared as well as we could un­der very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances.”

He added that hav­ing the up­per hand against a Nige­ria side made up mostly of a Euro­pean con­tin­gent was a great ad­vert for the PSL.

“I think this is a good Nige­ria team, a bet­ter one than we drew 2-2 with (in Novem­ber 2014 at same venue) be­fore. They brought in play­ers like (Wil­fred) Ndidi, (Kelechi) Iheana­cho, (Alex) Iwobi, (Ahmed) Musa and the boy from Hol­land (Ty­ronne Ebuehi), who is a good player but we put him un­der enor­mous pres­sure at times.” said Bax­ter. “They have got play­ers at Lazio and all over. They are not mugs. I was asked how this re­flects on the PSL and I said Nige­ria have play­ers at Lazio, Arse­nal and Le­ices­ter City and we have just knocked them over. I said I think that speaks vol­umes for the PSL’s progress. I hope we don’t get car­ried away, but it’s a good start.” 10 UP: Rafael Nadal col­lapses into heap in cel­e­bra­tion after his vic­tory in fi­nal match of the French Open against Stanis­las Wawrinka of Switzer­land yes­ter­day. It is Nadal’s 10th ti­tle at Roland Gar­ros.

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