Africa Cup of Nations: SA coach Baxter defends team after record win

South Africa coach Stuart Baxter

A record 6-0 win for South Africa brought delight to under fire coach Stuart Baxter but his mood quickly changed after Saturday’s home victory over Seychelles when the local press questioned the significance of the win.

Baxter said it was the performance more than the result that pleased him as Bafana Bafana moved closer to qualifying for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals with a one-sided score in front of a tiny crowd at a rain-soaked Soccer City in Johannesburg.

But he was quickly irked when asked in the post-match news conference what he could take from the win over a “mediocre team.”

“I’m not one to duck questions, but when you have just seen the national team win 6-0, against whichever opposition … I watched Nigeria play against these guys [Seychelles] and they didn’t look bad.

“Nigeria scored a wonder-goal, a set-play and one goal from open play. We must have carved out 10 or 15 chances from open play and we were deadly on our set-plays,” Baxter told reporters.

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“And the first question I get is a negative one, I really don’t understand that. Why do you need to ask such a negative question and put it in such a negative way?

“I will take a lot of positives out of that game. I have seen France, the world champions, draw 2-2 with Iceland last night. They were losing 2-0 with four minutes to go. We know the world game.”

Baxter was delighted with how his players tackled their task, even if they missed a myriad of chances.

“We could get carried away and say it was a good win because we scored six goals, but I think that would be taking a lot away from the performance of the players,” he added.

“We were coming up against the underestimation factor, which is not our strong suit, so we worked very hard this week to address that.

“Then we scored three goals in the first half, in poor weather, and played some good football. Because at half-time it is very easy for players to relax and not put that same effort in.”

South Africa were 3-0 ahead at the break after a scoring three in four minutes midway through the half.

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“The way the players played should be congratulated, perhaps more than the six goals. They were very disciplined and stuck to the game-plan and the structure.

“The subs that went on, did exactly what we wanted them to do. I thought the players did a fantastic job.”

South Africa, whose previous record win was a 5-0 score over Guatemala ahead of the 2010 World Cup finals which was later found to have been fixed, departed on Sunday for their return game against the islanders in Victoria on Tuesday.

If Baxter’s boys win they will effectively need just a single point from their final two qualifiers, home to Nigeria next month and away against Libya in March next year.

“With our history of failing to qualify, qualification is the goal. If we wrap it up quickly, that would be nice and everybody would be happy.

“If it goes to the last minute of the last game and we qualify, everybody will be delighted as well. We have to concentrate on what we do,” the coach added.

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