Stuart Baxter bemoans Bafana nerves in World Cup Group D qualifying loss to Cape Verde
Posted: 2 September 2017 Time: 20:15
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter felt some of his players suffered from stage fright and will be haunted by the 2-1 loss to Cape Verde in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in Praia on Friday night.
South Africa opened the scoring through Turkey-based hitman Tokelo Rantie in the 14th minute at Estadio Nacional.
However, the hosts hit back before the break via two goals from Nuno Rocha, who completed his brace from the spot after Dean Furman was adjudged to have fouled Ryan Mendes in the area.
Baxter's side weren't helped by the 66th-minute dismissal of Kaizer Chiefs centre-back Erick 'Tower' Mathoho as they suffered their first defeat in Group D, leaving them with four points from three matches.
Bafana will host the return leg at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Tuesday night.
Baxter said: "First half we get our noses in front, I think we were in quite good control of the game but then we had a period of about 20 minutes where I said to the players we got to stay true to ourselves.
"We went into backfoot mode, not taking responsibility on the ball, losing the ball to easily, and it was a little bit of rabbit in the headlights. I think the importance of the game affected a few of the players, they didn't reach their normal standard. I said to 'Tyson' [Thulani Hlatshwayo] that now we can find excuses or reasons and this is one of the reasons: we didn't show that focus, composure, call it what you want.
"We opened the game quite well, we got a goal and were threatening to get our combination play going. When they sort of threatened us, especially when they scored, that was disappointing. We got a good opportunity that end, we lose the ball and they counter us and it's a little bit sloppy, a deflection. I don't think we reacted well to the 1-1 goal. Rest of the half we were a bit rabbit in headlights.
"When we came out for the second half we showed we can play. We had more of an attitude problem than a technical problem, and the players that were not playing so well in first half, they played better. Even when Tower got sent off we still created a few opportunitites when they didn't.
"So we can find the referee was the villain of the piece and say the boy balls were cheating when they were not throwing the ball back. But they are not reasons, it smacks of excuses. The real thing was us. For a period we didn't cope at the right level.
"I don't know if the penalty was a penalty. I don't know if that is a reason. Again, we can respond better. The players are not happy, they are hurting. Now the importance of the game is haunting them a little bit, especially the ones that didn't play so well in the first half," concluded the Brit.