Bafana were dealt a surprise 4-3 penalty shootout defeat to Barea in their opening clash of the tournament at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Sunday afternoon.
Baxter’s men were unable to find the back of the net in regulation time, as it ended goalless after 90 minutes, and were made to rue their missed opportunities as they exited the cup at the sudden-death stage.
The British tactician conceded that fortune was not on their side, as he felt the players’ lack of experience got to them when they failed to hold their nerve in the shootout.
“Football is football. Zambia played last night, went to penalties and won; and we played, went to penalties and lost,” said Baxter.
“Penalties are a lottery. You have to keep your nerve and our players didn’t, so I have to congratulate Madagascar on their win.
“I thought we were the better team in 90 minutes, but that doesn’t count for anything if you don’t score, and in the second half we weren’t as dangerous as the first.
“The longer the game went, the more the younger players started to stress, and that’s the experience that they need. But, again, it doesn’t count for anything if you don’t score.”
Prior to the tournament, Baxter stressed that the aim was to invest international playing time into a young Bafana side as they look to build towards the future of the national team.
While many would bemoan the defeat as a failure, the former Kaizer Chiefs mentor says they will soldier on in the plate section without altering their overall approach.
“Obviously the international experience we want to give to this young team doesn’t change if the opponents are Madagascar or Namibia – it’s international experience that they need,” said Baxter.
“Of course, we’d have rather been playing for the main trophy, but the only way you can ‘make it up’ – which I don’t think you can – is by working hard and showing that the strategy we had in the approach to the tournament is still in place.
“That the players will work and learn, and we will try to develop players. It’s probably invaluable for the three young players – Lyle [Foster], Luther [Singh] and Jamie [Webber] to have been in that sort of penalty shootout representing their country.
“But it’s not a pleasant experience when they had to walk with their heads down back into the dressing room, so we’ll just keep on working but there’s no silver bullet to that.
“You’ve got to keep believing in the things you’re doing and the policy you had going into the tournament. The reason we didn’t have the big-name players was because we wanted to invest international time into the younger players.”
Bafana will next clash with Namibia in the plate semi-final on Tuesday evening (17h00) at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium.