Stuart Baxter. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Stuart Baxter. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/SIMPHIWE NKWALI

Bafana Bafana have close-up knowledge of Libya‚ but national boss Stuart Baxter has admitted that a coaching change from the North Africans means he cannot accurately predict their game plan in Sunday’s huge Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

SA need a draw and Libya a win in the qualifier in Sfax‚ Tunisia‚ to reach the Egypt 2019 event in June and July.

Bafana have had a close look at Libya and will know they will be a tough prospect‚ having at times been put on the back foot in a 1-1 draw at Moses Mabhida Stadium in September.

SA seemed surprised by then-Mediterranean Knights coach Adel Amrouche’s attacking tactics.

The charismatic and controversial Algerian-Belgian Amrouche — who raised eyebrows in Durban when he compared the Confederation of African Football to a mafia — quit as Libya coach four days ahead of their next qualifier away against Nigeria in Uyo.

The coach had also made some controversial statements about how he would rather face Bafana than the Super Eagles.

Amrouche’s assistant‚ Omar al-Maryami‚ took charge of the back-to-back games against Nigeria‚ losing 4-0 in Uyo and 3-2 in Sfax.

The Libyan Football Association was not impressed with those results and appointed legend Fawzi al-Issawi‚ player of the tournament at the 1982 Nations Cup and the Knights’ all-time top scorer with 40 goals, head coach soon after.

Given his scoring record as a player‚ and the result in his lone game in charge — an 8-1 thrashing against Seychelles in Victoria‚ where Bafana inexcusably could only draw 0-0 — Bafana might expect an attacking approach from al-Issawi.

Baxter said it is difficult to judge how much Libya have changed under their new coach.

“They played differently against Seychelles‚ but that was a different game‚” he said.

“Will they change against us? I’m not sure.

“I think they’ll want to have a quite offensive starting point. But I don’t think they’ll be wanting to go crazy because he [al-Issawi] knows that we are quick and mobile‚ and if we pick them off in the fifth minute and go a goal up, they’ve got a mountain to climb.

“So I think he will change. Do I need to know exactly what he will do? No‚ I don’t think so.

“We’ll set up our stall‚ and go there and produce a performance from our point of view. I do think I’ve got a pretty good idea of how they will play.”

From what he saw in Durban‚ Baxter will know Libya are strong and capable of stretching the SA defence from their pace and forcefulness down the flanks.

Ahmad Benali and Ali Elmusrati were the central midfield pairing who made it difficult for SA to penetrate Libya and create chances.

Pacey centre-forward Anis Saltou‚ one of four players on a third-highest four goals in the qualifiers‚ got behind SA’s defence and struck the post in Durban.