Bafana’s Afcon group will be challenging, says coach Stuart Baxter
SA to take on neighbours Namibia and previous winners Ivory Coast and Morocco
Bafana Bafana’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) fate was revealed after the draw in Egypt on Friday, and coach Stuart Baxter says they face “a great challenge” following the naming of their group rivals.
Baxter had “a minor health procedure” a few days ago that prevented him from travelling to Cairo to attend the draw and was not present when Bafana were pitted against two-time champions Ivory Coast‚ 1976 winners Morocco and neighbours Namibia.
The Briton, who will make his debut in an Afcon tournament when the team plays in Egypt, said Bafana need the stern test they will no doubt face against pedigreed Group D rivals Morocco and Ivory Coast‚ and Namibia‚ if they are to demonstrate the progress they have made since he took over the coaching reins in May 2017.
“The draw on the surface is not an easy one‚” said the Bafana coach. “It’s got two top nations in the continent and a local derby.
‘‘I think a lot of people will be looking at our group thinking this is a group of death‚ which is good for us because that shows that they rate us as a dangerous opponent.”
Bafana met all three sides in previous Afcon tournaments and never lost against any of them.
The 2019 continental showpiece runs from June 21 to July 19 and Baxter said Bafana have to prove they have regained their confidence since the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
“We are in the process of developing a new team and this squad is doing well‚” said the 65-year-old.
“This squad has done very well in qualification and I’m sitting here telling you that if we can concentrate on that and keep that development‚ I think we will be dangerous.
“I’ve got great confidence in the players and I think if they can go there and show the character they showed against Libya [in the away final Afcon qualifier that secured qualification in Tunisia in March] and express themselves at the right time‚ then I think it is realistic that we can have a good tournament.”
Morocco are the highest-placed team in Group D in the latest Fifa rankings at 45th in the world and fourth in Africa‚ Ivory Coast are 65th and 11th‚ SA 73rd and 14th‚ and Namibia 113th and 28th.
The top two teams from the six groups and four best third-placed finishers reach the last 16.