Baxter offers insight on Mlambo omission

POLL: Tough Bafana break for Mlambo and Co?

Baxter named a 24-man squad to battle The Pirates in their Group E 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at home and away on 13 and 16 October respectively.

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A total of six changes were made from the previous squad that drew 0-0 in Durban to Libya last month, with the likes of Thabo Nodada, Lebogang Maboe and France-based Lebogang Phiri getting the nod in place of the likes of Themba Zwane, Bongani Zungu and Keagan Dolly.

However, one noteworthy absentee was Mlambo, who has played a starring role in the Absa Premiership log leaders’ setup this season and is known to be influential with his defense-splitting passes as he conducts his club’s build-up play from the center of the park - something Bafana lacked against The Mediterranean Knights.

Baxter has since revealed that the 27-year-old has caught his eye and has been knocking on the national team door, but feels the situation he faces with regards to blooding in youth requires him to consider a balance of quality and age.

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“I’ve had meetings with the Pirates staff, and I’ve told them that he’s one that has caught my eye. I’m just looking at the balance of the squad,” explained Baxter.

“And I’m thinking, at this moment, against these opponents is he the one? I was thinking about him more against Libya, I have to admit, because of his ability to play in tight spaces.

“But on the other hand, we knew we were going to have to defend on transition against Libya, and at Pirates he has a role where he’s a last-third and a build-up player, with others tracking back quicker than he does.

“I think he’s definitely improved, and when I maybe get a younger player that I think [offers] around the same [qualities], well then it’s about taking the younger one. And that’s not saying he’s any worse, it’s just saying that for the future it is worth investing international playing time into that younger player.

“But he’s certainly one that’s caught my eye, and you know you’ve got to pick a squad that wins, so he’s close but at the moment I think the balance that we’ve got [in the squad] is okay.”

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