Bafana Bafana may have only managed a draw in their friendly match aagainst Ghana, but coach Stuart Baxter is happy with what he saw from his charges in Dubai on Saturday.
The Brit’s charges played the first of two warm-up matches in preparation for the 2019 Afcon tournament – which begins on Friday, 21 June in Egypt – and were held to a goalless draw by a star-studded Black Stars outfit.
Baxter, who fielded two separate XIs in each half, was pleased with Bafana’s solid showing in the contest, held in front of a sparse crowd at the Dubai Police Academy grounds.
“I looked at the team tonight, and I thought there are certain players who put their hands up, and there are some players who might have weakened their case. I thought the players one think should be in the starting line-up, most of them did well.”
Baxter singled out Brighton and Hove Albion attacker Percy Tau for special praise.
“I am always impressed with Percy (Tau) because his attitude is spot on. We asked him to play a slightly different role today, and our midfield players and defenders didn’t really defend the way we wanted them to do, meaning Percy had to drop back. But the second half, we defended better, and that is why the likes of Lebogang Maboe and Themba Zwane were more dangerous up the field. We didn’t do that in the first half.”
Bafana not yet ready, but on track for Afcon
Bafana have one more friendly match before opening their Afcon campaign, as they are set to face Angola in Cairo on Wednesday.
Baxter believes the clash against the “Palancas Negras”, along with the subsequent training sessions, will fine tune the squad ahead of the big tournament.
“We are not fully ready, but we will be. We have another game against Angola, and then with the trainings we have in between before the Ivory Coast game, we should then be ready.”
According to Baxter, Bafana are on an upward curve, having enjoyed a bit of a purple patch under his leadership with a string of positive results, which saw them qualify unbeaten for Afcon.
“Bafana Bafana is a team in reconstruction, this team is ok, a team that didn’t lose tonight. We have not lost in almost one and a half years now; that is encouraging but to talk of being favourites will be like stretching it a bit far. There is Cameroon, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco who all feel they have much better chance than us.
“What we need to do (as Bafana Bafana) is improve and keep improving and play our game with confidence and not to show exaggerated respect for our opponents. If we can win a few games, then you never know what happens next”
On their return to Afcon after missing out of the previous edition, Bafana square off against Ivory Coast first up, before meeting Morocco and Namibia.