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Bafana Bafana, Eagles on equal footing, says Baxter

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 06, 2019 South Africa’s coach Stuart Baxter (L) speaks to South Africa’s defender Thamsanqa Mkhize during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Round of 16 football match between Egypt and South Africa at the Cairo International Stadium in the Egyptian Capital. – Stuart Baxter’s days as South Africa coach appeared numbered after a limp group stage display left Bafana Bafana up against Africa Cup of Nations hosts Egypt, but a famous defeat of the title favourites has quietened his mounting detractors. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

Ordinarily, South Africa’s Coach, Stuart Baxter should be relaxed going into today’s African Cup of Nations quarterfinal match against Nigeria. After all, the Bafana Bafana achieved what nobody thought was possible when they beat hosts, Egypt in the last round.

The team, which took four points from Nigeria out of six in their last two meetings, are seen as the form side of the competition and therefor should not have anything to feat from a Nigerian side, whose creaky defence has been shipping goals.

But Baxter is not giving anything to chance. He knows how Nigeria behaves each time the opposition is South Africa. He will not take the old enemy for granted.

Speaking yesterday on the game, which will produce one of the semifinalists of the competition, Baxter said, “Nigeria are absolutely one of the best teams on the continent and have been for a long time. One game doesn’t make us favourites.

“I don’t think he’s (Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr) fooling anybody. When we hit a balance between good organisation and getting on the ball and playing with pace and using our natural inherent technique, we can give anybody a game. 

“We’ll be respecting Nigeria but not fearing them. We will have to produce a very good South Africa performance to beat them.”

Baxter believes playing against Nigeria is enough motivation for the players, who fancy themselves as being on the same pedestal with their foes. He also hopes the atmosphere would be charged enough to drive his boys to victory.

“Dare I say the crowds in South Africa for some international matches are quite sparse as well,” he said.

“The players were inspired by the crowd the other evening, but I hope they don’t need that sort of crowd to find that sort of inspiration. 

“This is special now, you’re getting to the sharp end of the stick and it’s people that think like winners who will end up winning to the tournament. 

“I think we know we’ve got a tough opponent. I think we know we’ve got to be completely focused and I think we understand that it is going to take all the mental energy we can muster and not be dependent on getting up because the crowd is up.”


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