JOHANNESBURG - With their World Cup dreams dead but not officially buried, embattled Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has called on his team to spoil Senegal’s party in Dakar on Tuesday night.
Bafana will enter Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor as nothing more than a play-thing for Senegal’s amusement before their party after the match as the Lions of Teranga have qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2002. Baxter urged his team to stun Senegal in their capital.
That’s easier said than done, especially after they went down to the same team in Polokwane on Friday to see their dreams of going to Russia ending. Bafana can only hope to sneak into the global showpiece through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) nullifying Fifa’s decision to replay their match against Senegal.
The football governing body declared Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey manipulated the initial 1-0 win by Bafana. Burkina Faso took the matter to Cas and it should be heard next month.
That though is a long shot. Bafana’s only shot at redemption is by winning in Dakar.
“It’s very important (to finish on a high note),” Baxter said from Dakar. “It’s important on many levels. It’s important because to take a scalp like Senegal away from home would be like the Nigeria game, it creates such a good platform to move forward. And of course in terms of prestige, it is a big game.
"It’s also big for the players. It’s an opportunity to throw their marker and say that I want to be involved in the national team, look at me - don’t look anywhere else. It is also important because you always want to finish as high as possible in your group.”
Bongani Zungu is eligible after missing Friday’s match due to suspension. Baxter hinted at giving Phakamani Mahlambi a run with one eye on the future.
“Friday’s match showed yet again that in many aspects we are on the right path,” Baxter said. “It showed that we can match the best in the continent when we do things properly. That game also showed that we can shoot ourselves in the foot and we can be vulnerable against anybody as well.
"We have to become more consistent. We have to become more clinical in front of goals and take advantage of our good periods of play. Those are the things that we have suffered from for a long time both in our domestic game and in the national team. But I do feel we are developing a way of play.”
Baxter continued, “I like the way we are playing but it is difficult to promote that when you don’t win. Football is about winning and winning games is what qualifies you to major tournaments.
"We are in a situation at the moment where we want to develop. We want to eventually bring through more young players. We want to develop a style, improve our relationships with clubs and facilitate the progress but at the same time we are trying to gain qualification.
"The way forward from here is that we persevere. We try to rectify some of the mistakes in the short time we have together. Long-term we want to bring through some of the promising young players quicker.”