DURBAN - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter showed his support for Dean Furman after the national team laboured to a goalless draw in their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Libya at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.
During last year’s World Cup qualifiers, Furman was criticised for poor displays against Cape Verde and was dropped. But Baxter felt he was back to his best against Libya and a worthy Man of the Match. He was one of the few players who performed well.
“We should create an environment where people like Dean can feel wanted. Dean is an asset to South African football and anyone who doesn’t see that doesn’t know football. Dean does take a little bit of unfair criticism. I thought he was outstanding today. He was excellent,” Baxter explained.
Bafana were awful against Libya but Baxter had his excuses ready after a game which most pundits expected Bafana to win with relative ease. In reality, Libya created the better chances over the 90 minutes and 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 Libya were never going to be pushovers.
“This was 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, “ he said.
Bafana should put the Seychelles to the 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.
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 (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,” he said
The Seychelles are the whipping boys of the group. They were walloped 5-1 by Libya in their opening fixture. Nigeria rolled past them 3-0 over the weekend. Yet in the past Bafana have struggled against the likes of Madagascar, Ethiopia, Gambia and Botswana.
“We’ve tried to address it,” said the coach. “We’ve tried to address it by putting down instructions. We’ve tried to encourage them to express themselves within framework."