Baxter clueless when calling up Bafana players

Stuart Baxter.
Image: GALLO IMAGES

No one with two brain cells to rub together can deny that coach Stuart Baxter is out of his depth, just as he was during his first stint with Bafana Bafana back in 2004/5.

I do not need a Level 1 coaching licence to notice that Baxter's general team selection appears to be more random than calculated.

As fans we know our players' strengths and weaknesses as we watch them week in and week out, but it seems that this knowledge eludes the coach.

It is common knowledge among coaches and players that team selection should be geared towards neutralising and overcoming the opposition.

So, if this is indeed common knowledge, how then do you explain Baxter using a zonal marking defender like Clayton Daniels to neutralise a dangerous striker like Sadio Mane in our first game against Senegal?

A skilful and speedy striker like Mane needs a strong man-to-man marker to stick to him like glue and bottle him up.

Clive Barker, the most successful Bafana coach so far, used to prefer good man-to-man markers for all his defensive roles. Lucas Radebe, David Nyathi and Sizwe Motaung were excellent in this regard, with Neil Tovey (who was more of a zonal-marking defender) doing the mopping up behind them.

The midfield as well needs to have a mix of tight defensive players and ball players to be effective. That's why Barker used to have Linda Buthelezi and Eric Tinkler for "steel" and Doctor Khumalo or John 'Shoes' Moshoeu for attacking flair.

Currently Hlompo Kekana is versatile as both a defensive and long-range diagonal passing player, while Bongani Zungu has impressed with his defensive prowess in the middle of the park.

We have an abundance of short-passing ball players, but we can't have the whole midfield comprising of them in any given match, because they become a thoroughfare and expose the defence.

Even my 13-year-old son knows that each opposition you face has different strengths and weaknesses, so you cannot use a 'one-size-fits-all' approach.

The most successful national coaches in the world have been those who use players in positions they already excel in at their clubs and not those who force them to try new ones.

Players do not have the luxury and time to learn to play new positions while trying to win for their countries.

Knowing players' strengths and selecting them purely based on that is key to creating a decent national team.

That's where Baxter should start, if he is fortunate enough to serve his full contract.

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