JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter won’t let Nigeria’s injury crisis derail his game plan for Saturday’s crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at FNB Stadium.
The Super Eagles have had to withdraw goalkeeper Francis Uzoho and top goal scorer Odion Ighalo for the grudge match this weekend, leaving them vulnerable between the sticks and thin in attack.
Baxter, however, insists this will have little bearing on South Africa’s preparations.
“Nigeria have got such depth that I don’t need to go into too much individual detail because if Ighalo doesn’t play they have (Kelechi) Iheanacho,” the Bafana coach said. “I will be more worried about what our players do.
“Yes, we will have a game plan and we hope it will suit them badly. But if I follow up on what I said, that we respect Nigeria but don’t fear them, I don’t think I can fill my players with what the Nigerians can do to us. We have to know that, accept that and get on with the game.”
Nigeria currently top Group E after three wins and one defeat - a 2-0 loss at home against Bafana in Uyo last year. They bounced back strongly to beat Seychelles away and Libya twice in back-to-back games last month, while Baxter’s men - although still unbeaten - are in second place and trail the Super Eagles by a single point.
The Bafana coach has said he does not want to have to rely on looking for all three points when South Africa travel to play Libya for their final group match in March next year, meaning he would be more than relieved to beat his counterpart Gernot Rohr yet again.
“Their injuries will affect it (how Bafana plan) a little bit, but we will work on our defending and making sure there are no gaps instead of focusing on the fact Ighalo isn’t there.
We should track and release properly, don’t sleep or ball watch. If we do that then we have a chance - let them worry about their problems. We have our problems and we will manage them, we won’t start complaining and use that as an excuse.”
Bafana are without influential midfielder Dean Furman and the creativity of Kamohelo Mokotjo ahead of the Nigeria clash.