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Baxter filled with hope


...but cautious that Bafana's never-say-die attitude will be needed against Libya in March

BATTLE ROYAL: Paraguays Alejandro Gamarra (right) and Bafana Bafanas Innocent Maela tussle for the ball during Tuesday evenings match in the Nelson Mandela Challenge played at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter was left sufficiently impressed, but he knows his team’s never-say-die attitude against Paraguay and Nigeria is the same fighting spirit they will need when they visit Libya in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in March next year.

Bafana showed resilience coming back from one goal down to snatch a draw at the death against Paraguay at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday as they shared the Nelson Mandela Challenge trophy with the South Americans.

Percy Tau, once again, was the hero for Bafana with his last-gasp equaliser in referee’s optional time. Bafana also came back from behind to earn a point against Nigeria this past weekend in a crunch 2019 Afcon qualifier at FNB Stadium, Tau then making the pass that resulted in the winner.

Baxter was left with hope after analysis of the two matches that they can go away and get the required result against Libya.

They need to get a point in order to book a place to Afcon in Cameroon next year.

It won’t, however, be a forgone conclusion as Bafana will have to fight gallantly to get the desired result in difficult conditions. But these two stalemates against Nigeria and Paraguay has given the Bafana coach some optimism.

“We gave away an own-goal against Nigeria and we kept on going.

“We gave away a very poor goal against the team like Paraguay and we kept going. Both games we got back to 1-1. We need that sort of spirit in Libya.

“If you want to say for the occasion, I think Madiba would have been proud of the boys. The way they fought because that (is) what he liked. He wanted people to work hard and to earn their money. I think our players did that tonight (Tuesday),” Baxter said.

Bafana have amassed nine points in five Afcon qualifiers. They are second in Group E, but they can still miss out on a place to the Cameroon tournament if they lose to Libya in March. Libya are on seven points, two points behind the South Africans, and they need a victory at all cost to qualify for Afcon 2019.

The Super Eagles have already secured their place in Africa’s biggest football showpiece after their draw with Bafana.

“Going to Libya, what can I take is that we don’t give up. We keep playing. We did make a lot of errors, but that was because of the opponents. They were aggressive, they were pressing, they were keeping good shape and some of the players are not used to thinking that quickly. I thought we defended quite well. The spirit is the biggest thing that we take from the game,” Baxter said.

Bafana have to wait for three months to lock horns against Libya which is a long time without any competitive action, so Baxter is looking for them to play a few friendlies during that period.

“We have got to try and arrange some sort of friendly games,” Baxter explained.