Baxter’s Bafana fight same old demons

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JOHANNESBURG, September 10 – The goalless draw against Libya in Afcon 2019 qualifying in Durban on Saturday was further evidence of Bafana Bafana’s ongoing battle to rid themselves of their mental struggles.

Libya, despite their lowly world ranking of 101, were full value for their point on the road but questions remain for the home side concerning their poor results.

Failure to advance to the finals of the previous Afcon and their ill-fated World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign was compounded by their inability to beat teams below them in the world rankings, and who have far fewer high calibre players at their disposal.

Much like his predecessors, Stuart Baxter has seen his side pull off wins on the road, often with the odds stacked against them, but at home the national team has struggled for any sort of consistency and have dropped points consistently.

Saturday’s performance was one of the worst in recent times giving Nigeria, who sit just one point back in qualifying, new life in the race to qualify for the continental showpiece next year.

The failure to win games against lesser opponents has become a problem of national concern. Now that problem has become engrained in the country’s top players, confirmed by the coach himself after his side’s latest disappointing showing.

“Confidence comes from repeating something a lot and making sure that I can do that no matter who the opponent is,” said Baxter said after the match.

“We have to change our psyche a little bit. I don’t think it is easy to come in to the national camp and change that psyche and revive them within four or five days”

The national boss will do well to meet his peers from top SA Premiership sides, many of whom who have seen their teams put out week campaigns in continental football over the past two years, to try dig deeper into understanding the approach of his best players.

At present, it is the repeating of failure to perform when it matters with fear and not confidence, the main emotion gripping Bafana. A few more matches played on repeat and the search for Baxter’s replacement could well be on. (ANA)