Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has pleaded with the nation for fair criticism of his team in the aftermath of the goalless draw against Libya in their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match on Saturday.
With this stalemate, South Africa are jointly top of Group E with the Mediterranean Knights after two games, with Nigeria also resuscitating their campaign with a 3-0 win over Seychelles, also on Saturday.
Baxter, who marked his return at the helm of Bafana with a 2-0 away win in the opening fixture against Nigeria last year, has promised to “come back strongly” against the Seychelles, who South Africa face in back-to-back fixtures next month.
“We know we should have won; we are disappointed. We’ll try and come back strongly,” the Brit told a media conference at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“We all need to take responsibility for the development of this game, and constant negativity towards certain players or the whole of South African football doesn’t encourage anybody.”
He continued: “I think we all need to ask ourselves a question: are we fair with the criticism or maybe not?
“We all have responsibility to come up with a product that we can enjoy. Well, winning is the only thing that will change that. I know if had lost tonight, you’ll be hammering me absolutely trying to cut me down at the knees.
“Nevertheless, I will find the way of play that will qualify South Africa and win games and, at the same time, we keep on building talent.”
Baxter handed the debut to Orlando Pirates winger Vincent Pule in a midfield that also had the overseas-based duo of Percy Tau and Keagan Dolly, hoping to raid the Libyan defence with pace and skill.
Instead, the visitors had Baxter’s game plan all figured out and gave little room to the trio, who had Sibusiso Vilakazi operating in the central attacking role.
“Tactically, I don’t think we got it completely wrong. I think implementation and execution was not the best. We can do better,” said the coach.
Libya had three clear scoring chances in the opening half and they were denied by the upright in one moment, while goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune also kept Bafana in the game with some brave saves.
Baxter received some positive feedback from his Libyan counterpart, Adel Amrouche: “It is not easy to play South Africa and I stayed awake for long nights thinking about how we were going stop this one and that one because you have Vilakazi, Dolly and Tau. I respect the team too much.”
The Belgian’s side demolished Seychelles 5-1 in their opening fixture.
“I know [some] people will say the coach [Baxter] did not do well, but, no, I think he did well.
“Bafana have a problem in the finishing, but in Africa, we don’t have strikers who can score every day. Maybe the concept of football has changed where we all think about closing the space and play on the counterattacks.”