CAIRO - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter isn’t taking Namibia lightly as the two Southern African teams search for their first win in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
The Southern African derby will conclude what should be an entertaining double header on Friday at Al Salam Stadium here. Herve Renard will lead Morocco against his former team, Ivory Coast - who he led to success in the 2015 Afcon, in the first match at 7pm. Bafana will then take on Namibia at 10pm in games that could shape who goes through to the knockout stage from Group D.
Bafana and Namibia are still searching for their first points after losing their opening matches. The Brave Warriors will relish the contest against Bafana who have a better squad on paper.
“Championships and tournaments are not won on paper,” Baxter warned. “So, we play a Namibia team that ran Morocco very, very close. They are going to play against a team that ran Ivory Coast very close. It’s going to be a good game.
It’s a local derby and I think that it’s going to be a combative game. We may need some fresh legs and we may change the shape slightly. But there’s a lot of ways to win the game. It’s not just about throwing the kitchen sink at it. We have to be tactically a little bit smarter and make sure that we don’t tread on a landmine. The team that will lose that game, can say goodbye. We know the importance of that game. That will be reflected in the intensity of the game.”
Bafana go into this clash at the back of a poor performance against the Elephants. Baxter’s man didn’t have a single shot on target to show how poor they were in their attack. They only looked like they would score from a set-piece, but even then they didn’t exert their authority. The only highlight was Ronwen Williams finally showing the country what he can do. The SuperSport United goalkeeper was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up. But he produced two great saves to show that he deserved his place.
“Ronwen was excellent,” Baxter said. “When we played against Libya in Tunisia, we played with three centrebacks and we knew that the wing play would be their strength and there would be a lot of crosses. But that wasn’t the strength of the Cote d’Ivoire team. Their strength is their wide players going inside and striking the ball. This was a different game, whereas Darren (Keet) was suited for the game against Libya, Darren has been a little bit inactive. We thought that Ronwen was suited for this game. His shot-stopping and quick distribution would be good for us. I thought that he did well.”
Bafana looked dejected when they left Al Salam Stadium on Monday night. Yesterday they returned to training eager to make up for their mistakes.
“What didn’t work for us in the beginning, when you play against a physically strong team, you have to take every opportunity to make a rapid transition,” Baxter said. “We took too many touches on the transition and didn’t get the ball moving in the space that we said we wanted to. When we did that, we could rotate the ball and our movement and combination play was quite good. That’s what was going to give us the goal chances.
I don’t think that we translated that good possession with the final penetrative run or pass into a good chance.”