Vincent Pule and Hamdou Elhouni battle for the ball during their 2019 Afcon qualifier at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday. Leon Lestrade ANA PICTURES
BAFANA BAFANA were awful against against Libya at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday, but coach Stuart Baxter had his excuses ready as he tried to defend his team following their uninspiring display.

Bafana were held to a 0-0 stalemate in their 2019 Afcon qualifier, but it was a game which most pundits would have expected Bafana to win with relative ease. In reality, Libya created better chances over the 90 minutes and goalkeepr Itumeleng Khune pulled off a number of good saves to keep his side in the game.

Bafana hardly threatened Libya, yet Baxter tried to make a case that the Mediterranean Knights were never going to be pushovers: “Tonight is the game that we wanted to win. I don’t think we can look at Libya and the way in which they played against Morocco, they drew 0-0 in 90 minutes and lost in extra time. They did very well against Sudan. They beat Congo. They have not had results that suggested this was going to be an easy game. But we wanted to win this game and therefore we are disappointed,” Baxter said.

Bafana should put the Seychelles to sword in their next two assignments and put themselves in the driving seat in Group E, but then again nothing is certain with the current team as they know how to choke against the minnows.

If there’s one team that can’t be trusted even when things look straightforward it is Bafana.

Baxter emphasised the importance of working on the mental side of things against so-called smaller teams.

“My experiences in the two games against Cape Verde where I expected us to win, those are two examples of things not going according to plan. If you don’t have the basics in place, anxiety and panic sets in and then you play at a lower level than you should.

“When it doesn’t go according to plan, players know that you guys (the media) will hammer them. They know they will be embarrassed. They know they will lose points. They are aware of all of that. They are patriotic, and they worry about it. Real confidence comes from repeating something a lot and making sure that we can do it no matter who we are playing against and no matter what the situation is. We have to change our psyche a little bit. I don’t think it is easy to come in to the national camp and change that psyche and revive them within four or five days,” a worried Baxter said

The Seychelles are the whipping boys of the group, yet in the past Bafana have struggled against the likes of Madagascar, Ethiopia, Gambia and Botswana.

“We’ve tried to address it by putting down instructions. We’ve tried to encourage them to express themselves within framework. That’s all we can do and make a friend out of that pressure because that’s what the pressure does,” Baxter said.