Baxter bats away negativity after Bafana's thumping win vs. Seychelles
Stuart Baxter says it was the performance more than the result that pleased him as South Africa claimed a record 6-0 African Cup of Nations qualifier victory over minnows Seychelles at a wet FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Bafana Bafana tightened their grip on a place at next year's African Cup of Nations finals with the victory, in which they might easily have reached double figures were it not for some wasteful finishing and the excellent goalkeeping of Seychelles gloveman Romeo Barra.
Baxter had praise for the application of his players, and said he would take only positives from the game despite the missed chances, appearing irked when asked in the post-match press conference what he would take from the win over a "mediocre" team.
"I am not one to duck questions, but when you have just seen the national team win 6-0, against whichever opposition ... I watched Nigeria play against these guys [Seychelles] and they didn't look bad," Baxter said.
"Nigeria scored a wonder-goal, a set-play and one goal from open play. We must have carved out 10 or 15 chances from open play and we were deadly on our set-plays.
"And the first question I get is a negative one, I really don't understand that. Why do you need to ask such a negative question and put it in such a negative way?
"I will take a lot of positives out of that game. I have seen France, the world champions, draw 2-2 with Iceland last night. They were losing 2-0 with four minutes to go. We know the world game."
Baxter said the scoreline aside, he was delighted with how his players had tackled their task.
"We could get carried away and say it was a good win because we scored six goals, but I think that would be taking a lot away from the performance of the players," Baxter said.
"We were coming up against the underestimation factor, which is not our strong suit, so we worked very hard this week to address that.
"Then we scored three goals in the first half, in poor weather, and played some good football. Because at halftime it is very easy for players to relax and not put that same effort in.
"The way the players played should be congratulated, perhaps more than the six goals. They were very disciplined and stuck to the game-plan and the structure. The subs that went on, did exactly what we wanted them to do. I thought the players did a fantastic job."
Baxter insisted that in the post-match video session he would show the players only the positive points from the game, as that is what he wants to see more of in Tuesday's return fixture in Victoria on Tuesday.
"Their overall performance, we should show them a cavalcade of the good stuff and say we want more of that. We want more of that effort, that passion, combination play, work with the ball ... when South Africans play in a structured enough way where they move the ball and can use their speed and imagination, we have potential in this country.
Especially impressive was Lebo Mothiba, who scored one goal and set up another for Percy Tau in an excellent all-round showing that drew praise from Baxter.
"Lebo ... there has been a lot of talk about his movement, but he is the one that is least 'South African', and I say that with all due respect. In England we say that Alan Shearer used to 'lead the line', to be that type of striker.
"Lebo led the line, he was bullying their centre-backs, he was making nice little runs behind and they didn't have a moment of peace. Off that, it worked quite well with Percy [Tau] a little bit deeper, where he was more difficult to pick up."
Bafana can take another step towards qualification with victory in Victoria, which could leave them needing just a single point from their final two qualifiers, at home to Nigeria in November and away against Libya in March 2019.
"With our history of failing to qualify, qualification is the goal," Baxter said.
"If we wrap it up quickly, that would be nice and everybody would be happy. If it goes to the last minute of the last game and we qualify, everybody will be delighted as well. We have to concentrate on what we do."