2018 WORLD CUP
Baxter calls up striker Dino Ndlovu for key qualifier
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has surprisingly named Azerbaijan-based striker Dino Ndlovu in the squad to face Burkina Faso in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at FNB Stadium on October 7.
Ndlovu had been excluded from Bafana despite being one of the form South African strikers playing abroad.
Bafana could only manage a 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier in October 2016 and Ndlovu’s rich vein of form will be needed if they are to keep their qualifying hopes alive.
While the West Africans remain unbeaten in Group D, Bafana’s campaign took a huge knock with back-to-back 2-1 defeats to Cape Verde, which left SA with a mountain to climb to reach Russia 2018. Burkina Faso are on six points, level with Cape Verde, but the Burkinabe lead the group due to superior goal difference. Senegal are third on five points, with Bafana bottom of the table on one point.
SA need to win the remaining three games to stand a realistic chance of qualifying for the World Cup. They have to replay their game against Senegal – which they had won 2-1 – after Fifa ruled that the match had been manipulated by Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey.
Baxter said his side faced a tall order, but anything was possible. "After the disappointment of our two games against Cape Verde, the morale is low, but it is our duty to lift the boys up. We need to get them firing again and they are capable of doing so."
The Bafana squad will assemble for camp on October 1 in Johannesburg.
Meanwhile, Baxter has played down the alleged "ringleader" role of midfielder Bongani Zungu after a group of players was accused of partying into the early hours after the defeat to Cape Verde in Durban.
The coach said he would deal "in-house" with the players in question – named in reports as Zungu‚ Keagan Dolly‚ Andile Jali and Tebogo Langerman.
A weekend report claimed the Bafana players’ party in the team hotel‚ Umhlanga Garden Court‚ involved alcohol and women and took place in Zungu’s room.
It claimed that in the morning the team bus left Zungu behind "still sleeping with his girls".
Baxter was asked how such alleged behaviour reflected on the players’ commitment‚ especially since it was the coach who took most of the flak for the costly defeats that have crippled SA’s Russia 2018 chances.
"I don’t mind taking flak. I’ve taken flak since I was 15. I’ve got broad shoulders. When you’re in this game‚ you have to‚" the coach said.