Stuart Baxter. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Stuart Baxter. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

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.

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