Bafana coach Stuart Baxter reacts to African Nations Cup draw

Stuart Baxter during the International friendly match between South Africa and Zambia at Moruleng Stadium on June 13, 2017.
Stuart Baxter during the International friendly match between South Africa and Zambia at Moruleng Stadium on June 13, 2017.
Image: International friendly: South Africa v Zambia

Bafana Bafana’s 2019 African Nations Cup fate was revealed after the draw in Egypt on Friday and coach Stuart Baxter says they face “a great challenge” following the unveiling of their group rivals.

Baxter had “a minor health procedure” a few days ago that prevented him from travelling to Cairo to attend the draw and was not present when Bafana were pitted against two-time champions Ivory Coast‚ 1976 winners Morocco and southern African neighbours Namibia.

The Briton — who will be making his debut in a Nations Cup tournament in Egypt — said Bafana need the stern test they will no doubt face against pedigreed Group D rivals Morocco and Ivory Coast‚ and neighbours Namibia‚ if they are to demonstrate the progress they've made since he took over the coaching reins in May 2017.

“The draw on the surface is not an easy one‚” said the Bafana coach.

“It’s got two top nations in the continent and a local derby.

‘‘I think a lot of people will be looking at our group thinking this is a group of death‚ which is good for us because that shows that they rate us as a dangerous opponent.”

Bafana met all three sides in previous Nations Cup tournaments and never lost against any of them.

This year’s continental showpiece runs from June 21 to July 19 and Baxter said Bafana have to prove that they’ve regained their confidence since the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“We are in the process of developing a new team and this squad is doing well‚” said the 65-year-old Briton.

“This squad has done very well in qualification and I’m sitting here telling you that if we can concentrate on that and keep that development‚ I think we will be dangerous.

“I think I’ve got great confidence in the players and I think if they can go there and show the character they showed against Libya (in the away final Nations Cup qualifier that secured qualification in Tunisia last month) and express themselves at the right time‚ then I think it is realistic that we can have a good tournament.”

Morocco are the highest-placed team in Group D in the latest Fifa rankings at 45th in the world and fourth in Africa‚ Cote d-Ivoire are 65th and 11th‚ South Africa 73rd and 14th‚ and Namibia 113th and 28th.

The top two teams from the six groups and four best third-placed finishers reach the last-16.

Morocco should be the danger team in the group.

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