Baxter: SA players lack steeliness
Posted: 6 June 2018 Time: 09:16
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has identified the underlying issue that led to his team losing to Madagascar and then comfortably beating Namibia in the COSAFA Cup.
Bafana made slight work of the Brave Warriors as they waltzed to a 4-1 victory in their plate semi-final at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday evening.
This came just two days after they were unable to overcome a resilient and compact Barea outfit, after failing to take their opportunities in front of goal and later losing on penalties.
While it is thought that perhaps the high-pressure stakes and cautious approach against the islanders was the undoing of the team, Baxter feels otherwise and explained that it boils down to South Africans’ lack of mental toughness that has come on for many years.
“I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the coaches playing safe. Against Madagascar, we didn’t really have an orthodox right-back – we tried to play with Siyanda [Xulu] as a right-back and inverted him to allow Aubrey [Modiba] to go high,” Baxter explained.
“What that did in effect was he cut the pitch and then Ryan [Moon] came off the line too soon to cut the pitch, and Lebo [Maboe] wasn’t in the form he was in tonight [against Namibia] – holding his pocket and getting the ball – so he came inside to get the ball.
“So, we literally allowed Madagascar to play on a pitch that was 15-20 meters narrower than against Namibia – that’s a tactical thing, I don’t think it’s got anything do with being careful.
“But, again, you point to when we played against a team [like Madagascar] that is compact and we need to pick our way through, we’re not as good as we are when we’ve opened a few spaces and people get on the ball to run with it.
“That’s a challenge, and I think that’s nothing we’ve just discovered. It’s something that’s present probably through the last 10 years. You can maybe even go back longer, but that’s because South African players have certain skill sets and certain mental skills, and we lack a little bit of steeliness to keep structure and pick our way through.
“We like to be inventive and creative, but that structure you need to be able to pick your way through, I think we need to work very, very hard on that.”