Seeing Mamelodi Sundowns soar in their Champions League campaign has inspired Stuart Baxter to take their upcoming 2017 Confederation Cup tournament seriously.
Not that the SuperSport United coach didn’t have the same mental approach the time he was at Kaizer Chiefs. In fact he did. But his former side failed to put their continental opponents to the sword in their home fixtures, unlike what Sundowns have been doing recently and later went on to regret it.
Chiefs were knocked out twice in the qualifying rounds of the competition during the time Baxter was at the helm.
But the 63-year old Scotsman, whose side handed Highlands Park a 4-1 drubbing at Lucas Moripe Stadium in a league match this past weekend, said an early exit was something he was hoping to avoid this time around with his new side.
“Absolutely,” Baxter said, “we have to push for the best results we possibly can. Doing well in this tournament will bring a higher status for our country. We’ve got the likes of Sundowns and Orlando Pirates who’ve represented us really well. And now it’s our turn to do the same. That’s how you build a profile in any league in the world. English football was not always the best league in Europe. No, it wasn’t. Italians were better. The Dutch played much better football. The Spaniards were better. France was better. But now, England raised the standard of their league (by constantly participating in Uefa tournaments). It bodes well for everybody. And so, it is up to us (South African teams), including SuperSport to try and (win) that gold medal. That’s the only way we can improve the profile of our league on the continent.”
Baxter though, warned that their quest for continental glory was not going to be an easy one, as there are other teams who hoping to achieve the same.
“You can’t promise anything,” Baxter said. “But what you can do is, go out there and try to win it. That’s the only way to go about it. We are going to be as positive we can possibly be.”
Asked if he saw Zamalek coming back from a 3-0 deficit they were handed by Sundowns also this past weekend at Lucas Moripe Stadium going into the second leg, Baxter said: “I don’t see Zamalek coming back from this one. If they try to go all out on attack, Sundowns have pace and they’ll punish them on the counter. It’s done and dusted, in my opinion. And that’s great news for South African football. I’m really happy for (Pitso Mosimane).”
Meanwhile, Baxter said he was pleased with how his charges handled themselves against Highlands this past weekend, saying that they deserved the win. The former Bafana Bafana mentor, however, argued that their performance could have been much better, had they stepped it up a bit in the first period. Matsatsantsa a Pitori moved up four places on the PSL table and are now fourth with nine points from six league games.
“I wasn’t happy with the way we played in the first half, though we were two goals up before the break,” Baxter said. “We lacked intensity which allowed them the opportunity to push forward. We played better in the second period though. A 4-1 victory is a fantastic scoreline to walk away with from any match.”