JOHANNESBURG – Safa have confirmed that Bafana Bafana will travel to Zambia later this month to take part in a Four Nations tournament, which will include the hosts, Zimbabwe and Angola.
But this was done without the input of coach Stuart Baxter, who wanted to go to the King’s Cup in Thailand instead.
We look at the pros and cons of participating in either tournament, which one would suits the national team best.
2018 King’s Cup Thailand
Baxter said he’d written a four-page report on why it was important for this new crop of players to head over to Bangkok to gain international experience. They would have taken on Slovakia (Europe), the United Arab Emirates (the Gulf) and Thailand (Asia). “Three different styles, humid weather conditions and that would have been a great opportunity,” the Bafana coach argued.
This was well thought out by Baxter and given his contacts he would have already made arrangements and planned ahead, unlike the last minute preparations that have become synonymous with Safa.
We are in Africa and the coach’s mandate is to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. There is not much time or matches for Baxter to test whether the youngsters he plans to introduce to the national set-up are ready or not. It would been pointless for him to take them all the way to Asia, see them brush shoulders with sides they are never to face in World Cup qualifiers for Qatar 2022 and then be humiliated by their continental counterparts.
Also, who would have covered the costs of this trip? Safa don’t necessarily have bags of money stashed away at their Nasrec headquarters. Organising friendlies against non-African teams suggests Bafana are better than their counterparts here, despite failing to qualify for the 2017 Afcon and this year’s World Cup.
Four Nations tournament Zambia
A choice that clearly rubbed up Baxter the wrong way but in the end the best one. Safa have always said the goal for the association is to see Bafana back in the top five teams in Africa and improving their overall Fifa ranking, which is 77th at the moment. To do that, the national team has to consistently measure up against the best on the continent and Zambia and Zimbabwe are a good start considering how far their football has come in the last two years.
Bafana have regressed, while these two nations are producing a golden generation (the irony is that both countries have a growing number of their top players based in the PSL here) that’s aiming to impress at next year’s Afcon should they quality, which is a high probability.
Baxter was only told on Tuesday morning by his employers that the trip to Thailand would not be happening and that the squad he will pick for this month’s Fifa break will be heading to Zambia instead. You can imagine his shock and frustration.
Will he be able to ready this team for a competition he knew nothing about until minutes before he was to have a breakfast round-table with several journalists to map out his plan for 2018?