JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter did not completely jump to the defence of young Luther Singh for the casual manner in which he took, and missed, a penalty that cost the national team a place in the semifinals of the Cosafa Cup.
But the Scotsman promised to have a word with the 20-year-old who came under a barrage of criticism for his overall play in Sunday’s defeat in Polokwane and an average performance that culminated in his spot kick being saved, handing lowly Madagascar a rare 4-3 victory over Bafana – the highest raked side in the tournament.
“It concerns me greatly when we don’t score from creating chances – whether from a penalty or in open play. I will speak to Luther about the way he took his penalty. He took penalties in preparation and he scored both. I don’t think we can ask whether he was the right one to take it,” said Baxter.
“He had his chances in the game and maybe his confidence was a bit low. Maybe he was nervous. It looked like he wanted to be casual. (Motjeka) Madisha also took a very good penalty, but he also looked casual. If the goalkeeper saves it, there’s no explanation. My reaction immediately is that I understand the question about his attitude. It looked very casual, but I am guessing that his normal way of playing.”
@BafanaBafana XI vs Madagascar: Pieterse (GK), Xulu (c), Modiba, Fielies, Madisha, Makaringe, Maboe, Singh, Ndlovu, Moon, Motupa #2018cosafacup quarterfinal. @SAFA_net For more on the story go to https://t.co/XOWG9lXjnQ pic.twitter.com/9xFTpdyVrp
Singh, who players for Braga in Portugal, was used up top as a striker and did manage to break through on goal a few times, but could not break the deadlock.
Madagascar’s ultra-defensive style forced the match into penalties after a goalless draw in normal time. The poor finishing, of which Sing was the chief culprit along with a few of his teammates, was again the talking point.
“I will speak to him because he will take it hard,” Baxter explained.
“He is a young boy and this is his first appearance for me and he really wanted to do well. Again, I am more concerned with him missing two very good chances. I have seen (Roberto) Baggio miss a penalty. I have seen (Franco) Baresi miss a penalty – great players miss penalties. I will try explain to him that I am more concerned about his general play and try bring that up. And then I think the penalties will probably go in.”
Singh is part of a youthful squad picked by Baxter for the Cosafa Cup this month, and the coach was still adamant that they will gain invaluable experience despite the defeat and playing in the Plate semifinals against Namibia instead of challenging for the title proper.
“The international experience we want to give to this young team doesn’t change if the opponents are Madagascar or Namibia. Of course we would have rather be playing in the main trophy and the only way you can make it up, but I don’t think you can, is by working hard and showing that the strategy and idea we had when we approached this tournament is still in place. We will keep trying to develop players,” the coach said.
“It’s probably invaluable for the three – Lyle Foster, Jamie Webber and Luther to be in that sort of penalty shoot-out representing their country. But it’s not a pleasant experience when they have to walk with heads down back to the dressing room. Some of the players were very nervous. It will be difficult for them to take positives at the moment.
I am not using this as an excuse, but Madagascar played three games, got the experience, but also had the fatigue. This young group needs more time together. But the unsuitability is a bigger question for us because this (Cosafa Cup) comes at a time when the season has just finished and teams are tired and don’t have to give us their players.
When we went to the Four Nations (in Zambia three months ago) it worked for us. But now we have lost on penalties and there are questions. We will keep believing in our policy.”