Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter believes his side showed they have what it takes to compete at the Africa Cup of Nations, but admitted that their opening game defeat by Ivory Coast was a learning curve.
South Africa lacked the creative spark in the final third as they lost 1-0 to their West African opponents on Monday afternoon. Jonathan Kodjia scored the only goal of the match, to hand Les Elephants the three points.
Baxter and his team will now be aiming for a win against Namibia in their second Group D game on Friday night, before facing Morocco in their final group game in Egypt.
After the game Baxter admitted that his team did struggle at stages, but insisted they are ready to compete at this level.
‘I thought the start of the game, the first 15 minutes, we were quite slow in our decision-making and, in a way, we allowed them to come into a better rhythm. We were quite poor to transmit the ball from the back to the front,’ Baxter said in his post-match interview.
‘I thought we settled down and started to move the ball more quickly between the lines – the rest of the half we looked promising. I think we dealt with them quite well and it was an even game.
‘The second half was the same, and I think the heat affected both teams, the tempo dropped, and I thought we were comfortable in the game. We were playing better football than we did in the opening stages,’ the former Kaizer Chiefs coach added.
Baxter was then asked about his expectations after the opening game defeat.
‘I think we showed that we belong in this tournament. That’s a positive. We showed we can be a tough opponent for anybody. So, we go into both games looking to take points. We didn’t take the opportunity to react against a rapid transition. It was a learning curve for us,’ the coach responded.
Bafana are next in action on Friday night in a must-win encounter against neighbours Namibia if the side have any hopes of progressing to the knockout stages.
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