Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter said on Saturday he did not regret not starting Andile Jali and Percy Tau – two influential players at FNB Stadium in South Africa’s 3-1 win over Burkina Faso in a qualifier for next year’s World Cup – in the two successive defeats against Cape Verde last month.
Baxter slotted midfielder Jali in a deep striker role just behind Tau, the game plan proving to be too much for The Stallions on Saturday. Even opposition coach Paulo Duarte admitted Bafana were far too superior for his jaded-looking side.
“No, I don’t have any regrets,” said Baxter.
“I didn’t think Jali was suited for that game, but I felt strongly that he was the right one to have as a No.10 for this game. I could have gone with (Sibusiso) Vilakazi, or Keagan (Dolly), I could have gone with (Lebogang) Manyama, but when I’ve seen Burkina Faso play, they kept quite tight lines and it was difficult to get the ball between the lines, if you do it has to be a nice close touch and you need to see it past quickly. And I think that’s Andile.”
Jali was an unused substitute in the 2-1 defeat away in Praia, but came off the bench to score in the home leg in Durban. Bafana were already trailing then and suffered a loss by the same scoreline.
Tau, on the other hand, had been used as an effective substitute in both games, leaving many to question why Baxter hadn’t found a place for him in his starting line-up.
He scored after 48 seconds on Saturday and set up Vilakazi for the third goal in his Man of the Match performance.
“When it comes off then people pat me on the back and when it doesn’t they say I didn’t have a game plan,” said Baxter. “About playing Jali before, you know, the rearview mirror is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
“I didn’t think that the games would have suited Andile Jali in that role because Cape Verde would have played extremely compact and he wouldn’t have known where to go and he would have ended up risking the ball even more. I didn’t feel strongly about them being the right players then, but they were certainly the right to play now.”