Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has promised to have a go at Egypt, rallying his players to be brave and not just accept that Mo Salah is a world class player.
“Yeah, he is a world class player, and? We’ve got to get after him as well,” urged Baxter ahead of South Africa’s last-16 clash against the Pharaohs at the imposing Cairo International Stadium on Saturday night.
The game kicks off at 9pm.
“It’s 90 minutes; it’s a cup. The players must be confident, be daring, be brave and be aggressive. This is a great opportunity to upset the apple cart.
“I’d like to have a go at them [Egypt] without announcing it to the whole world. I would like to let things loose.
“In this game, I don’t want to have Percy Tau playing like a left-back; I want people high up the field and that’s something we’ve not found – that balance.”
While Baxter has been heavily criticised for his cautious approach, he argued that the players had been better tactically.
“I think they have been better, probably, tactically in this tournament than we’ve seen from South African teams.
“And then there is a but. We want more out of our attacking game. I don’t want to go away from the game feeling that we never really pitched up.”
The coach’s confidence stems from the fact that Bafana had, on a number of previous occasions, delivered when least expected and Baxter was hoping that the Egypt game could be one of those.
“Historically, it has proved in that we are better against teams that get at us rather than teams that set off and we don’t get it right mentally.
“We have played the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal and every one of those games could have gone either way. It was only a goal [difference] in any of those games. I don’t think that we feel hopeless. I think the players, partly have a bit of, ‘we can play better than that’.”
It’s a fact that many are expecting Egypt to win on Saturday but Baxter is happy to carry the underdog tag.
“Well, to be brutally honest, I’m happy about that. I don’t think there is anybody in their dressing room who doesn’t expect them to win.
“We’ve got to turn on their crowd. If not, we are not playing well.”
Changes are expected in the Bafana midfield with Themba Zwane out serving suspension.
Baxter hinted that Dean Furman might return to the starting XI to bolster the midfield after the SuperSport United captain sat out the games against Morocco and Namibia due to a knee ligament problem.
On the other hand, Egypt will again turn to Liverpool striker Salah, who has forged a good link with winger Mahmoud Trezequet in the tournament so far.
The pair has three goals between them in as many matches, while South Africa has scored just once in the competition, with Bongani Zungu netting the winner against Namibia in the first round.