WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
Cape Verde killed us, says Stuart Baxter
Bafana Bafana’s World Cup campaign was lost in their defeats against Cape Verde‚ which ensured the South Africans went into Friday night’s qualifier against Senegal with a knife at their throats‚ Stuart Baxter has said.
In the penultimate Group D qualifier for Russia 2018 at Peter Mokaba Stadium, it was clear SA was the team under pressure.
With a point needed and aware they could still gain it in the return game in Dakar on Tuesday‚ Senegal could be as cool as a mountain breeze.
Bafana conceded a nervy opener to Diafra Sakho in the the 13th minute‚ then played some scintillating football but could not relax in front of goal‚ as Themba Zwane forced a save and Lebogang Manyama hit the upright. In the 38th minute it was all but over at 2-0 from Thamsanqa Mkhize’s desperately unfortunate own goal.
And desperation was the theme for Bafana.
Their crippling back-to-back defeats against Cape Verde in September and the rebound 3-1 home win against Burkina Faso in October had left them needing to beat Senegal twice.
Asked where the campaign was lost‚ Baxter acknowledged: "It was Cape Verde.
"You can’t say it certainly‚ but if we only had two points more on the board going into this game‚ there’s much more of a knife at the throat of the other team‚ instead of us.
"And I think that may have been the difference between us relaxing and scoring in a period where we were playing really well‚ or clearing a ball.
"This was a do-or-die game because of those games [against Cape Verde]. It shouldn’t have been. But that’s history. And I said to the players that what I was pleased about is that the way Senegal played traditionally is not our forte [to deal with].
"To play against teams that sit deep and play quick on the break and have good-quality front players who can take you on – that’s not the way SA like to attack. They like an open game and space to move in."
Senegal have an unassailable 11 points in Group D to qualify for Russia 2018 going into the now meaningless match against Bafana on Tuesday.