CAIRO – Morocco’s coach Herve Renard issued a strong warning to Bafana Bafana, don’t expect the Atlas Lions to take it easy even though they have already qualified for the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Renard’s men booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 1-0 win over Ivory Coast which took them to six points after two matches.
The two-time Afcon champion has challenged his team to go for a 100% winning run so that they top Group D and send a strong message to their rivals.
Renard hasn’t shied away from stating that their target is to win the tournament where they are among the favourites. To do that, they need momentum which they plan to get at the expense of Bafana tonight at Al Salam Stadium. Bafana need at least a point to reach the quarter-finals.
“We need to stay focused on getting the first position,” Renard said.
“This was the target when the tournament started. We knew that the first game was going to be difficult for us because we weren’t ready yet. Fortunately, we got three points. Now we are improving, our game rose because of playing against a tough team like Ivory Coast. We have to concentrate on the bigger picture. This is only the first round.”
Baxter’s response was emphatic and filled with confidence even though he knew that the Morocco challenge will be sterner than that of Ivory Coast who they lost to or Namibia who they beat 1-0 to keep their chance of reaching the knockout stage alive.
Bafana have been woeful in the tournament which has led to a stinging of criticism from the fans, to the South African Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan and even the sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa who labelled their performance against the Elephants as poor.
Baxter didn’t take the criticism well, hitting out at South Africans and stopping short of saying that they aren’t true supporters.
“It annoys me sometimes when we hear of the 56 million behind us. When in reality, there’s not 56 million behind us. There’s 56 million waiting to chop our heads off,” an irate Baxter said on the eve of the 1-0 win over the Brave Warriors.
While that win was welcomed, the performance was far from convincing that they can challenge the juggernaut that is Morocco.
“The confidence that we take from this win will drive us to have a real hit at Morocco,” Baxter said. “They will be professional, and we will be tough. I am sure that they want to finish at the top, they want nine points and want to put us to bed. I am sure that they will be very driven to achieve that.
“We are not looking for favours from anyone. If we get anything, we are going to have to deserve it.”
The Moroccans looked devastating on the counter attack against the Elephants. Bafana’s defence will have to be sharp to deal with the attacking threat of the Atlas Lions.
“I think that they had a good game against Ivory Coast,” Renard said. “But when you make one mistake, you are punished at this level. The mistake was to lose the ball in the middle, and Max Gradel received the ball and with one cross they went ahead in the game.
This team can’t make these sorts of mistakes. We have to focus on the competition and getting the first position because it is very important to get the top position.”