WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
Baxter knows only a miracle can save Bafana now
It is becoming increasingly unlikely Bafana Bafana will qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and coach Stuart Baxter has conceded that he is not ready to start thinking about the kind of reception he is likely to get should Burkina Faso extinguish SA’s faint hopes at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Bafana host the Group D leaders in a must-win World Cup qualifier that could either end SA’s slim hopes of qualifying, or continue to feed the illusion that they can somehow find a way to Russia.
The back-to-back defeats to Cape Verde in September have condemned Bafana to the foot of the group table, and Baxter is well aware the South Africans will need the stars to align perfectly if they are to rescue their faltering campaign.
"I do not want to have too many thoughts‚" Baxter said about Saturday’s game.
"All of what you have told me now [the insurmountable odds Bafana face]‚ I could walk outside and just hang myself.
"If you do not win the games that you should win‚ then the biggest problems for me‚ the biggest issue we are facing in this camp is not all the possible scenarios because we have got no control of that.
"What we’ve got control over is our performance against Burkina Faso.
‘‘The biggest problem the players will have is that they’ve just come off two games [against Cape Verde] where they’ve underachieved in both games.
"They have been massively criticised‚ and I have been massively criticised and now it’s about circling the wagons and believing," Baxter said.
He said the Burkinabe were the best team in the group and Bafana would need to raise their game if they were to overcome the group favourites.
The Burkinabe have gone about their business quietly since arriving in SA earlier in the week and a win on Saturday would edge them closer to qualifying for the World Cup for the first time.
Baxter said he was aware that his players had to work very hard at restoring public confidence in the team. How they performed against the West Africans would be important.
"I’ve watched their games against Senegal [ drawn 2-2 and 0-0] and they were very competitive in both games. They were closer to winning those games than Senegal were.
‘‘They are a powerful, physical team and they have players with extreme qualities.
"We have got to shut that down and we have got to give them the sort of game they do not really want."
The annulled World Cup qualifier between SA and Senegal would be replayed on November 10 in Polokwane, Fifa announced on Wednesday.
SA won the original match
2-1 last November, but a Fifa probe triggered by betting patterns led to Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey being found guilty of match manipulation. It is the first World Cup qualifier anywhere to be replayed after a referee fixed the outcome.
Lamptey awarded SA a first-half penalty for a nonexistent handball, which they converted. Later in the half, he was ordering the Senegalese to retreat for a free kick, when SA took it and scored almost immediately.
Fifa barred Lamptey for life and international sports judicial body the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected his appeal.
The Ghanaian has now turned to the Swiss civil courts in the hope of having the ban lifted.