JOHANNESBURG - The South African Football Association (Safa) says it will insist Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter give more opportunities to young players as part of the way forward following the failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
Bafana finished bottom of their group behind Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, and throughout the campaign Baxter often went for the tried-and-tested, saying the development aspect would have to wait until after he’d secured qualification. He has come under immense criticism for ignoring players from the junior ranks.
“If you look at the countries that were at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed in getting to next year’s tournament, what they have in common is that they all failed to refresh their squads. The USA, Netherlands, Italy, Ghana and Algeria did not renew their squads,” said Safa president Danny Jordaan.
“We had a base to renew our squad because we went to the Under-17 and 20 World Cups, then we had a team at the Olympics. None of those players, other than Keagan Dolly, made it into the Bafana team.
"What the coach needs to do is to take the ages of players in the current squad and add four years in terms of Vision 2022. If you are 34 or 35 now, the question he (Baxter) must ask is that should he play those players for the next three years, even though they will be nearly 40? Maybe he should rather start with the one who is 22 and build a team. We will ask him to do that exercise.”
Jordaan also revealed that Baxter will submit his own report on what went wrong in the qualification campaign - the Scotsman losing four of the five matches he was in charge of and failing, for the second time as Bafana coach, to guide SA to the World Cup.
“We would like to see the squad for 2022 now. Who are those players? And we cannot start with 30-somethings, he just can’t,” Jordaan explained.
“A player like (Siphiwe) Tshabalala played in the 2010 World Cup, then he was involved in the qualification for the 2014 and 2018 Cups. We are heading to 2022 soon, and we would like to see more players from the junior teams being prepared.”
The Safa president also confirmed that with Bafana’s next qualifier now scheduled for September - the first international break following the World Cup in Russia - a number of friendlies will be arranged to avoid a lengthy period of inactivity.
“We have to play,” said Jordaan in his reaction to CAF’s decision to move the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in March to later in the year. This is to help African teams which have qualified for the World Cup adequate preparation.
“Uganda has already requested to play us in March. We are going to draw up a programme for the year, and some of the matches will be to celebrate the Nelson Mandela centenary. We have requests from several countries as well, and we have an agreement with the Dutch FA, part of which is to play a friendly match. The only problem is getting all the players, but we will ask Baxter to go ahead, even if he only uses the overseas based players who will be available.”