JOHANNESBURG - The theme song to Mission Impossible is a fitting soundtrack to Bafana Bafana’s attempt to qualify for the 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan), with many obstacles before they even take on their opponents.
The side made up of localy-based players will lose six men who will be withdrawn by their clubs from the team that drew 2-2 with Zambia at Buffalo City Stadium in East London on Saturday, in the first leg of the last round of qualifiers.
That number will go to eight with the suspended Tercious Malepe and the injured Sibusiso Kumalo. Stuart Baxter shrugged off that challenge without much protest as he lost nine players before the original 25-man squad he called up had even reported to camp last week.
The makeshift squad held their own against a formidable Chipolopolo side.
Bafana-lite went 2-0 up but struggled to hold their lead, made worse by Malepe’s sending-off which allowed Zambia to tie the match 2-2 and go to the return leg on Saturday afternoon in Ndola with the upper hand.
“It’s going to be mission impossible again,” Baxter said.
“This was mission impossible and they nearly pulled it off. Let’s talk about the players who are going to stay because they are going to do the job for us.”
Baxter and his team returned to Johannesburg from East London on Sunday. They will start their preparations for the second leg on Monday and depart for Zambia on Thursday looking to book their ticket to Kenya for the tournament that will run from January 11 - February 2.
“The 2-2 draw is not a great result for us,” Baxter said. “I just think our general play should have been better and we should have put one of our chances away. But I think the boys did as well as anybody could expect.
“Giving away two goals at home, which means Zambia have two away goals, means that they can go through with a 0-0 or 1-1 scoreline. But, on the other hand, if you had told me that this round would be decided in Zambia, I would have taken that before the game because the thinking before the game was that we had no chance and they had a strong side that would wipe the floor with us.
"Well they certainly didn’t do that.”
Baxter continued, “We will go to their own backyard with them knowing that we can play a bit. I know as a coach that it will be a difficult one for them.
"They will have a real go at us and we will pick them up on a transition and it’s 1-0 to make it a contest. "What seems to be a great result for them, the closer they’ll get to the game they will realise that it’s a tough score.”