Stuart Baxter is welcomed by fans during Bafana Bafana's arrival from AFCON. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
South African Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan was non-committal on the future of Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter despite saying that the team did “extremely well” in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

Bafana reached the quarter-finals on foreign soil for the first time since 2002 in Mali. Their other appearance in the last eight was in 2013 as hosts. Since then they crashed out in the group stage in 2015 and didn’t even qualify for the 2017 edition.

Baxter’s organised team showed progress by reaching the quarter-finals, eliminating hosts Egypt in the last 16 before Nigeria ended their journey in the last eight.

The positive was tactical organisation with a solid defensive showing. The downside was losing their heads in key moments which led to their losses to Morocco and Nigeria.

“We must look at the fact that we last participated in the 2015 Afcon in Equatorial Guinea,” Jordaan said.

“We were knocked out in the first round in 2015. In 2017 we didn’t qualify and in 2019 we qualified.

“I think that there was a low expectation of the team’s performance. There were a lot of changes, and over a long period of time we wanted to see a settled team.

“It was very difficult to determine exactly what our best XI was. This tournament has delivered a team that shows that they can play against the best.

“We played against three teams who were in the World Cup in Russia - Morocco, Nigeria and Egypt. We lost to Morocco and Nigeria in the last minutes of the game.

“I think that the team performed extremely well. The standout performance was off course against Egypt. It was a huge match and a huge test from Bafana. It was the best performance from Bafana in many, many years. (Former Bafana star) Mark Fish said he last saw such a performance in 1998.”

Bafana returned from Egypt yesterday. Jordaan stayed behind to continue his duties with the Confederation of African Football. Once that job is done he will have a conversation with Baxter on his future.

The Bafana coach spoke like he had already made up his mind that he will leave the post. Instead of giving the rehearsed response of his contract still having years on it, Baxter said he just about knew what his future entailed, and his body language and tone hinted that would be away from the national team.

“Stuart Baxter and the technical team will complete their technical report on the team, its preparation and the experience at this Afcon,” Jordaan said. “That will be filtered to the technical committee who will discuss, make the assessment and then give us a report on how they see the next few years into 2022, which is the Qatar World Cup, and the 2021 Afcon in Cameroon.”

Baxter wasn’t happy with how the preparations for the Afcon were handled, while Jordaan wasn’t happy with the football played in the group stage.

For the two to continue working together, they must reach a common understanding with the road to Cameroon and Qatar having started the day they were eliminated from this Afcon.

“I think that overall he is satisfied with the achievement of the team,” Jordaan said. “Is he happy? I don’t know. But I think that he is satisfied. When I spoke to him before the Nigeria game, he was positive about the result and said that if we can go through Nigeria, we can get to the final and possibly win it. He was extremely positive about the ability of the team and on how the team play. But we have not taken the discussion of what happened here; we will do that when I come back to South Africa.”

Malik Said 

Sunday Independent