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Let’s move on, sharply

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It wasn’t so much the defeat that was disappointing, it was the manner in which the SA national football team capitulated

Stuart Baxter watches over a Bafana Bafana training session. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

After a very poor performance in losing 2-1 to Cape Verde in Praia on Friday night, the pall of gloom hovering over Bafana Bafana was lifted when Senegal and Burkina Faso played to a goalless draw on Saturday.

While the result ensures South Africa remain in contention to qualify for a spot at the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, now, more than ever, they owe the nation a big performance.

As it stands now, Burkina Faso top the qualifying group with five points, Senegal and Bafana have four, with Cape Verde on three. With three qualifiers to play, including Tuesday’s return match against Cape Verde at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, there’s still everything to play for. It could have been so much worse.

On Friday, Bafana appeared to have blown their World Cup chances as they limped to an ignoble loss.

It wasn’t so much the defeat that was disappointing, it was the manner in which the SA national football team capitulated.

In short, they were listless, lacking in desire and motivation, complacent and, importantly, they failed to recognise just how important a positive result was in their bid to get to Russia.

To head coach Stuart Baxter’s credit, he made no excuses. In fact, he hit the nail on the head with his comment: “We had more of an attitude problem than a technical problem.”

It’s this haughty demeanour, and disrespect for the opposition, that always comes back to haunt Bafana.

It’s as if they think they just need to show up and a positive result will follow; there’s no desperation to put in the hard yards to make things happen.

In the words of Baxter again: “We played on the back foot too much, not taking responsibility on the ball, losing the ball too easily, and it was a little bit like a rabbit in the headlights.”

Okay, coach, we got that.

No excuses, put the defeat behind, and let’s move on to the next game.

And that next one is tomorrow. Baxter was only appointed as national team coach in May, but already he faces his biggest test.

Now, both the coach and the players need to rise to the occasion: another defeat tomorrow and Bafana will be watching the 2018 World Cup on their television screens.