Stuart Baxter named his prelim Afcon squad yesterday but some are unhappy with the players that were left out. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
For a coach who gave the impression of being spoilt for choice in his selection of a preliminary squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, Stuart Baxter is still not talking up Bafana Bafana’s chances.

But when your team was "useless" only recently, it is logical that you do not get carried away when things seem to be going well.

In any case, such is the fickleness of Bafana followers that the man in charge always has to have his wits about him. And Baxter had that and more at Safa House yesterday, the Englishman eloquently explaining why it is important not to unduly raise expectations for the biennial continental showpiece.

In announcing a 30-man squad that will be trimmed to 23 just before Bafana leave for the land of the Pharaohs via the UAE, where they will play two friendlies, Baxter spoke about no less than four players he would love to have included.

Lebogang Phiri, Aubrey Modiba, Bradley Grobler and Itumeleng Khune missed out on selection and Baxter was at pains trying to explain why he omitted them.

“Lebo Phiri is a fantastic ambassador for South African football and I would love to have an extra place for him because he is so good,” Baxter said of the France-based midfielder.

Equally complimentary of the others who missed the cut, Baxter then expressed his surprise at being asked whether, given the seeming strength in depth at his disposal, he would be bringing home the trophy.

“I find it strange that when we played Libya at home there was a headline that said, ‘To hell with Bafana’ because we drew 0-0, and from that we go to, ‘you’re gonna win the trophy’.

“I am not saying, 'yes, we’re gonna win it', but there is a certain scenario that if it happens then Bafana will be a force. If we get out of the group stage, which I think we can, then I think... people will not wanna play (against) us.

“I wanna make sure that we leave our hearts out on the field. But I do not want to burden the players with saying we must do this or that. What we must do is give everything we got, work as hard as we can in our preparations, and go out there to make people proud.

“They don’t think South Africa has done anything for a long time, well let’s do something.”


The Star

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