Border nations South Africa and Namibia meet under heave pressure to secure their first points at the Africa Cup of Nations
Afcon 2019: Winning is important but Baxter won’t disrespect Bafana Bafana’s opponents Namibia
The Bafana mentor wants improvement as his side take on the Brave Warriors in a must-win game
While South Africa might be considered favourites on paper as they prepare for their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) showdown with Namibia on Friday night, head coach Stuart Baxter remains wary of his side’s opponents.
After Bafana Bafana opened their campaign with defeat to Ivory Coast, the clash set for Cairo’s Al Salam Stadium has become a must-win.
However, despite being confident, the Bafana mentor has urged his team not to disrespect their Southern African neighbours, who will also be on the lookout for three points after losing their Group D opener to Morocco.
“Ivory Coast is the first game we have lost in one-and-half years and talking of dismantling Namibia is totally disrespectful towards a team that qualified for Afcon and ran Morocco very, very close,” the 65-year-old coach was quoted as saying by Safa’s website ahead of the game.
One cause for concern has been Bafana’s tameness in front of goal as Bafana failed to register a single shot on target against the Ivorians, but Baxter is hopeful that things will be a lot more positive this time around.
“Yes, our strikers didn’t fire on the day and we didn’t create a lot of goal chances. Even then, Tyson [Thulani Hlatshwayo] had a good chance, Percy [Tau] went through and could have had a penalty. We had chances but they were not enough for us,” he explained.
“I do understand the mood back home but that is nothing new and let’s be honest, that was a top team [Ivory Coast] we were playing. There were some positives but we were not really happy with our overall performance and yes, this [Namibia game] is a massive game for us.
“The onus is on us to produce good football. If we play the way we are capable of, we can win the game but I will not come here and disrespect our opponents,” a confident Baxter concluded.
And Vilakazi acknowledged South Africa have already reached “must-win” status at such an early stage of this year’s tournament.
“With Namibia now, we need to get a response in terms of winning,” the Mamelodi Sundowns attacker told TimesLIVE. “We have to win at all costs.
“We got to this AFCON and it’s a must-win [game] for us – it doesn’t matter how. This is a point where we need to react, we need to win games.
“We find ourselves in a very challenging situation but we have to respond to it.”
Meanwhile, Namibia had positives to take from their own reverse and coach Ricardo Mannetti is buoyed ahead of meeting South Africa on Friday.
“We come into the match with positives from the Morocco game and we need to compete and get the result we want,” he told a news conference.
“It’s not about the next round but the first win for the country and then anything can happen.
“The players are very close and some have met so many times before and so that will be interesting.
“This is our moment to enjoy and make memories and we grab this chance to play against the best on the continent. This is our World Cup.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
🇿🇦 South Africa – Ronwen Williams
Goalkeeper Williams was a slightly surprising choice to start against Ivory Coast, yet he was South Africa’s standout performer as they gave their esteemed opponents a scare. Outstanding stops denied Kodjia and Nicolas Pepe and he will be targeting a clean sheet against Namibia.
🇳🇦 Namibia – Lloyd Kazapua
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Namibia’s star man last time out was also their goalkeeper. Kazapua was unfortunate to see substitute Itamunua Keimuine head into his own net but will have to be at his best again to keep Bafana Bafana at bay.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– South Africa have won their only previous encounter against Namibia in the Africa Cup of Nations, back in February 1998 (4-1).
– Former South Africa striker Benni McCarthy grabbed all four goals during that previous tournament meeting. He is also the last player to score four in a single AFCON game.
– South Africa have won only once in their past 15 group stage games at the Africa Cup of Nations (D6 L8). That solitary success was in January 2013, against Angola (2-0), when Bafana Bafana hosted the tournament.
– Namibia are winless in their seven games played at the Africa Cup of Nations (D2 L5), failing to keep a clean sheet in any of these seven encounters (19 goals conceded).
– Three of South Africa’s past six goals at the Africa Cup of Nations have been scored from outside the box.