Cape Times

Baxter says Bafana facing ‘mission impossible’

- Njabulo Ngidi

JOHANNESBU­RG: The theme song to Mission Impossible is a fitting soundtrack to Bafana Bafana’s attempt to qualify for the 2018 African Nations Championsh­ip (Chan) with many obstacles before they even take on their opponents.

The side made up of localbased players will lose six men who will be withdrawn by their clubs from the team that played to a 2-2 draw with Zambia at Buffalo City Stadium in East London on Saturday, in the first leg of the last round of qualifiers.

That number will increased to eight with the suspension of Tercious Malepe and an injury to Sibusiso Kumalo. Stuart Baxter shrugged off that challenge without much protest as he lost nine players before the original 25-man squad he called up had even reported to camp last week, but the makeshift squad held their own against a formidable Chipolopol­o side. Bafana-lite went 2-0 up but struggled to hold their lead, made worse by Malepe’s sending off which allowed Zambia to tie the match 2-2 and go to the return leg on Saturday afternoon in Ndola with the upper hand.

“It’s going to be mission impossible again,” Baxter said. “This was mission impossible and they nearly pulled it off. Let’s talk about the players who are going to stay because they are going to do the job for us.”

Baxter and his team will start their preparatio­ns for the second leg today and depart for Zambia on Thursday looking to book their ticket to Kenya for the tournament that will run from January 11 – February 2.

“The 2-2 draw is not a great result for us,” Baxter said. “Giving away two goals at home, means that they can go through with a 0-0 or 1-1 scoreline. But on the other hand if you had told me that this round would be decided in Zambia, I would have taken that before the game because the thinking was that we had no chance and they had a strong side that would wipe the floor with us. Well they certainly didn’t do that.”

Baxter continued, “We will go to their own backyard with them knowing we can play a bit. I know as a coach it will be a difficult one for them. They will have a real go at us and we will pick them up on a transition and it’s 1-0 to make it a contest. What seems to be a great result for them, the closer to the game they will realise it’s a tough score.”

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