Win over Nigeria is one to cherish
I know how much this means, but we can’t get carried away – Baxter
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.