Johannesburg – Former Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter believes the national team are in a stronger position than was indicated by their last-eight exit at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.
South Africa, the lowest ranked team in Group A, finished top of the table before they were knocked out in a penalty shoot-out against Mali in the quarterfinals.
“I didn't see anything that was hysterically frightening,” Baxter said in the wake of Nigeria's 1-0 victory over Burkina Faso in Sunday's final.
“I don't think we should look at the Afcon and say, 'what a shame for us because we can't do this and we can't do that'.”
Baxter said strides were being made in improving the quality of local football, and he felt youth structures and talent identification were both being approached in the correct manner, which bode well for the future.
Bafana would remain a serious threat in the next few Afcon tournaments, he predicted, and could take heart from their performance as the 1996 champions reached the continental playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
“I certainly don't think Nigeria showed us anything that we should be going out and working really hard at, to be like Nigeria,” Baxter said.
“If we do better with what is South African, we can go a long way.
“Rather than be inspired by Afcon, we should think we can be taking Afcon by the scruff of the neck in the next few years and shaking it.”
Baxter did not see anything groundbreaking during the tournament, and he believed Bafana had done well to stick to their own style.
With more luck in the spot-kick decider against Mali, they could have held their own in the latter stages of the competition.
“I don't think we saw anything tactically that's revolutionary, or that will inspire league coaches to go in different directions. I think quite the opposite,” he said.
“We're working on a level here and I think Gordon (Igesund) and the boys were probably disappointed that the ball didn't just fall for us in the penalty shoot-out so they could go on and have a crack at some of the other teams.” – Sapa