Cape Town – Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter has bemoaned the missed chances from his charges which could have altered the result of their quarter-final clash against Madagascar in the 2018 COSAFA Cup in Polokwane.
The Malagasy defeated South Africa 4-3 on penalties on Sunday at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium, after the match ended goalless after 90 minutes.
Bafana Bafana missed four sitters in regulation time missing out on three one-on-ones with one shot hitting the upright.
In the ensuing penalty shootout, South Africa led 3-1 at one stage but missed two, which saw them knocked out of the competition – for the second time in a row.
Speaking to the media after the match, Baxter had this to say:
THOUGHTS ON THE MATCH:
Football is football, Zambia went to penalties and won, we went to penalties and lost. Its a lottery when it comes to penalties, you have to keep your nerve and our players didnt. Congratulations to Madagascar, I thought we were the better team in 90 minutes but it doesnt count for anything if you dont score. And in the second half we werent as dangerous as the first half and the longer the game went on the more the younger players started to stress and thats the experience that they need, but again it doesnt count for anything if you dont score.
ON MISSED CHANCES AND PENALTIES:
It concerns me greatly when we dont score goals, whether its from open play or penalties. I will speak to Luther about the way he took his penalty. We took penalties at training in preparation for the match and he took both his penalties very well, the thing is we cant ask now if Luther was the right one to be given the penalty. He had two chances in the game – maybe his confidence was low, maybe he was nervous, maybe it didnt come out as he looked, he looked like he wanted to be casual. In the beginning Madisha took a very good penalty he also looked casual, but if the keeper saves it theres no explanation, so it concerns me more on the chances we missed than on the penalties, but I will have a little word with Luther. I understand the question about his attitude because he looked very casual, but I am guessing that is his normal way of playing, when it doesnt work it doesnt matter how it doesnt work. So I will speak to him because he will take it hard, he is a young boy, this is his first appearance for me and he really wanted to do well. Again I am more concerned about him missing two very good chances, I think with the penalty I have seen the likes of Baggio miss, I have seen Baresi, I have seen great players miss penalties. I will try to explain to him that I am more concerned about his general play, and then I think the penalties will come up.
POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES FROM THE MATCH:
The positive part is when we played the way we discussed we are going to play, I think we played quite well when we played through them quickly, when we didnt take too long to build up and allow them to get set, when we threatened in between and behind their defenders I thought we looked okay and we created chances. But when we overplayed, or played too slowly, or when players werent in position quickly enough, then Madagascar could move and keep a block, which made it difficult to pick your way through, but when we played correctly that was the positive. To say to a group that has been together for only six or five days that they should do that all the time, is probably unfair of me. What we didnt do very well was the opposite of that – we played too slowly, we didnt compress the game at the right time, we were a bit slow to counter-press and thats because we havent been together a lot, and thats why some of them were very nervous. I think its going to be very difficult for them to take any positives out of the game at the moment and I didnt shout or scream at them, I just said we would have a good look at this when we get back to the hotel.
ON FACING A TEAM THAT HAS ALREADY PLAYED THREE MATCHES IN THE TOURNAMENT:
I am not talking about this as an excuse, Madagascar got to play three games but they also have fatigue – so you have the experience but you also get fatigue. Would I choose the experience or the fatigue, it doesnt really matter. This young group needs more time together, they certainly do. The unsuitability is a very difficult one for us because it comes at a time when the season has just finished and teams are tired and they dont have to release their players, and we have to come up with a strategy. Its an age-old problem for us but thats why we chose the younger players, invest time in the ones that you believe can be down further the road as full internationals. When we went to the Four Nations in Zambia it worked very well for us, but we lost a penalty shootout, so its a question of six of one or half a dozen. I dont think the format of us going in earlier is better than we have now. But it is a difficult tournament for us, it certainly is.
THE OBJECTIVE OF THE TOURNAMENT:
Obviously the international experience that we want to give to this young team doesnt change irrespective of who the opponent is, its the international experience that they need, of course we would rather be playing in the main trophy and even though you cant make it up, we need to show the strategy and idea that we had when we approached this tournament is still in place, that the players will work, will learn and we will try to develop those players. This is probably invaluable for the three young players Lyle Foster, Luther Singh and Jamie Webber to be in that sort of penalty shoot-out representing your country, but its not a pleasant experience when they walk back to the dressing room with their heads down. We will just keep on working, and you have to believe in the things you are doing and the policy that you had going into the tournament. And the reason we didnt have big name players is because we wanted to invest international time into the younger players.
Bafana Bafana will next play against Namibia in the plate semi-final on Tuesday at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Kick-off is at 17:00.