Baxter looks on brighter side

Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Rowen Williams deflects a ball after a shot by Ivory Coast forward Jonathan Kodjia during the Africa Cup of Nations match at the Al Salam Stadium
Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Rowen Williams deflects a ball after a shot by Ivory Coast forward Jonathan Kodjia during the Africa Cup of Nations match at the Al Salam Stadium
Image: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

Bafana Bafana were poor for parts of the game on what should be a strength for the national team under Stuart Baxter, their transitions, in Monday's 1-0 Africa Cup of Nations defeat against Ivory Coast, admitted the coach.

But there was a lot that Baxter also took encouragement from as the South Africans displayed an excellent structure in the heat of a Group D fixture at Al Salam Stadium.

If Baxter can successfully tweak an attack that failed - as the heat perhaps most affected SA, who could only play their favourite quick-passing game in patches - they have a good chance of beating Namibia on Friday (kickoff 10pm), and even giving Morocco a run for their money on Monday.

"I thought in the first 15 minutes we were quite slow in our decision-making, and in a way we allowed Cote d'Ivoire to come into a better rhythm," Baxter said.

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"We were quite poor to transmit the ball from the back to the front. We settled down and started moving the ball more quickly, and we got in between the lines, and the rest of the half we looked promising.

"The second half the same. I think the heat affected both teams, and the tempo dropped. But I thought we were comfortable in the game.

"The goal came from when we had a corner. And on a transition from our corner, we didn't defend as well as we had done."

One thing you have to give Baxter is that he is brave. He opted for Ronwen Williams in a horses for courses swap with Darren Keet in goal, in a move that would have seen him slammed at home had it backfired.

The SuperSport United keeper was outstanding.

"We picked Ronwen because, when we played against Libya in Tunisia [in Bafana's clinching qualifier in March], we played with three centrebacks, and knew that flank-play would be their strength and there would be lots of crosses.

"But that wasn't the strength of Cote d'Ivoire. We knew their wide players drive inside and strike at goal, bashing through bodies.

"Darren was suited for Libya, and has been a little more inactive [for Bidvest Wits], and Ronwen, we thought, was suited for this game."

The result was disappointing, but far from the disaster.

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