JOHANNESBURG - A sombre-looking Stuart Baxter on Wednesday lamented missed chances, a poor pitch and cheating match officials as he attempted to explain away Bafana Bafana’s embarrassing goalless draw away to Seychelles on Tuesday.
South Africa had yet again raised the country’s hopes, having thrashed the same side 6-0 three days earlier in the first of their back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for next year’s competition in Cameroon.
So clinical and ruthless were Bafana at FNB Stadium to go top of Group E ahead of Nigeria that their opposition were completely written off for the return leg. But Baxter’s men failed to score – missing a flood of chances and dropping to second place in the group after Nigeria beat Libya a few hours later.
“I am of course massively disappointed with the result,” said the coach shortly after arriving at the OR Tambo International Airport. “The players were very deflated. I don’t want to say they were embarrassed because that would be deriding the effort they put in. But they know the result was important for us.
“I was frustrated and angry immediately after the game. That was one of the worst pitches to ever play a competitive game on, and that’s not an excuse because we still did enough to win the game. But I think a combination of the pitch, and some unbelievable time-wasting, cheating by the opponent as well as a very poor refereeing performance, plus not taking the chances we created (explains the result).”
Bafana would have made their route to the Afcon a lot easier had they collected six points from both qualifiers against Seychelles. But they now need three points from their remaining two matches at home against Nigeria on November 17 and away to Libya, who have played most of their home games in either Algeria or Tunisia because of a civil war in their country.
“We needed a bit of luck on that pitch. I thought the boys did as much as they could do, we needed a bit of quality at the right time,” Baxter said. The Super Eagles will be coming for vengeance next month after Bafana shocked them with a 2-0 win in their own backyard in June last year during the first round of Afcon qualifiers.
Fresh from the World Cup in Russia four months ago and now top of the group, Nigeria are confident of a place in Cameroon. Given that the continental tournament has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams, the top two from each group will qualify for the Afcon.
“Whether we had won Tuesday’s game or not, we would still have had to face the same Nigeria team,” Baxter said. “We would have come in with a lot of confidence if we had picked up more points, but we still need to get the job done. It was just frustrating to be cheated like that.
“I had the referee tell me that he had to stop play when their goalkeeper went down. But that is not in the Fifa rules, unless there’s a head injury and not when he sees that someone is going to shoot. I think if you just change those five seconds of the game, then we have a comfortable win.”