The underdog tag that Bafana Bafana are forced to wear in their clash with Egypt in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tonight excites coach Stuart Baxter.
Egypt are strong favourites to get past the South African team and win the tournament they’re hosting for the first time since 2006.
The Pharaohs qualified for the knockout stage of the tournament with a 100 per cent run and without conceding a goal.
Bafana on the other hand struggled. They won only one of their three matches and went into the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.
“I am happy about that (that most people expect Egypt to win), to be brutally honest,” Baxter said.
“I don’t think that there’s anybody in our dressing room who is expecting them to win, honestly.
“We played Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal, and every one of those games could have gone either way.
“It was tight. There was only one goal difference in those games.”
Bafana have a reputation of rising to the occasion when they play against the best nations in world football.
“I don’t think that this game is a situation where you feel hopeless,” Baxter said. “I think the players partly have this belief that we can play better than them. We know that this is about squeezing a bit more out. Maybe this tournament is a big thing for a few of the players. But that’s got to go out of the window.
“This is one game, and this is a great opportunity to upset the applecart.
“Maybe we can’t, but I don’t want to go away from the game feeling that we never really pitched up. If we’re going to get beaten, let’s get beaten with the flag flying high.”
Baxter is cheerful, a stark contrast to the frustrated figure he was in the group stage with pressure piling on him.
He is in his zone in the knockout stage, with a good reputation of getting something in games of this nature. He did that well at Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United. “When you are in a cup competition, it’s a once off game,” he says. “I want to have a go at this game. I don’t want to have Percy Tau playing like a left back. I want to get people high up the field.
“We haven’t found that balance (between attack and defence). We have been better tactically in this tournament than we have seen from South African teams.
“And then there’s a but ... but we want more from our attacking game. Without criticising anybody, if we had more practise games maybe we would have found that balance earlier.
“This is about giving them a problem they didn’t think they had, to get on the front and be daring, be brave and be aggressive.
“Don’t just accept that Mo Salah is a world class player. We’ve got to go after him as well.”
The 75,000 people who will be backing Egypt at Cairo International Stadium expect their team to win and play good football.
But Baxter plans to attack them from the onset and turn their own fans against them.