Given Bafana Bafana’s history of failing to qualify for major tournaments lately, coach Stuart Baxter has stressed the importance of securing qualification for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) by next month, at least.
South Africa faces the Seychelles in the reverse fixture of their Afcon qualifier this afternoon, basking in a record 6-0 win over the Indian Ocean islanders in the first leg at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.
The match at Stade Linité in Victoria kicks off at 3.30pm South African time.
With Nigeria’s 4-0 win over Libya in Uyo, also on Saturday, Group E is slowly taking shape in the jostle for berths at the continental championships in June.
While a win for Bafana will put them firmly in the driving seat in Group E even if Nigeria beat Libya, eight nations could secure qualifications to the Afcon finals that will be staged in Cameroon next June.
“It’s important to secure qualification by next month. With our history of failing to qualify I think qualification is the goal. If we wrap it up quickly, that’s nice indeed and everybody will really be happy. But if it goes right in the last game everybody will be delighted anyway,” said Baxter, speaking shortly after South Africa recorded their biggest win in an official match against the lowly ranked Seychelles.
“We can get carried away with six goals and say that it was a good win but that will take a lot away from the performance of players.
“We were talking about goal difference and things like that. We want more of that effort – the move with the ball and combination play,” added the coach.
He also lauded his team for overcoming some of their weaknesses: burying chances and not underestimating their opponents.
Expectations are that Bafana will finish off the job to ward off any potential threat from Nigeria and Libya.
Baxter cited the artificial surface at Stade Linité in Victoria as one major challenge that South Africa must overcome this afternoon.
“Their pitch is not easy to play on. We may need to tweak our tactical approach. But if we show the same passion to get on the ball and move them about, I think we can do it on any surface. I am optimistic but it will be difficult and different.”
Bafana scorers in the first leg at the weekend were Thulani Hlatshwayo, Lebogang Mothiba, Percy Tau, Dino Ndlovu and Teboho Mokoena, including an own goal from Nigel Nigel.
Baxter, who handed official debuts to Mothiba and Mamelodi Sundowns newcomer Lebohang Maboe this weekend, said he was pleased with the combination of France-based Mothiba and Tau, who is plying his trade in Belgium.
After the Seychelles, Bafana will meet Nigeria at FNB Stadium next month and wrap up their qualification campaign against Libya in March next year.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is among the nations that could book their berths at the June 15 to July 13 continental championships after today’s round of qualifiers.
The Warriors, who have Kaizer Chiefs star Khama Billiat in their team, advance if they beat the DR Congo in Harare, provided Liberia and Congo-Brazzaville draw in another Group G match, also today.
Others who could qualify include the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Uganda, Egypt, Guinea, Tunisia and Madagascar.
Seychelles vs South Africa
SS4 HD, SS10 HD (3.15pm)
Libya vs Nigeria
SS9 HD (7.45pm)
• SABC has also confirmed that the public broadcaster will beam the Bafana game live today