Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter has described the crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Burkina Faso as a World Cup final for his side.
The two nations come face to face on Saturday, 7 October 2017 at the FNB Stadium. Kickoff is at 15h00.
South Africa and the Stallions of Burkina Faso met a year ago (8 October 2016) in Ouagadougou in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers under former coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba.
The match ended in a 1-1 stalemate with Dean Furman scoring Bafana Bafana’s goal.
Baxter says a lot has changed since then – Itumeleng Khune, Tebogo Langerman, Thulani Serero, Keagan Dolly, Hlompho Kekana and Sibusiso Vilakazi are the only survivors from that clash.
“The team has changed, Burkina Faso has also changed. They still have the same style, the same physique and the speed in certain positions, but I think the detail would have changed massively from both camps because they are now playing away, and we are at home, and for us it is a different nature than it would have been had we won in Cape Verde,” said Baxter.
Bafana Bafana are still haunted by the back to back defeats at the hands of Cape Verde last month, but Baxter says they are now more motivated than ever to do well this time around.
“There’s been a good vibe since we got back into camp. The players have worked very hard, and I am very pleased with the sessions we have had. We want to show the real face of South African football, I don’t think we did that in the last game. Also, this becomes a World Cup final for us, this is a do or die match and if we want to keep our hopes alive in any shape or form, then we have to beat Burkina Faso. There is an English saying, and I hope it is true for this game – Beware the man with nothing to lose,” added Baxter.
South Africa goes into this match with a different defence after losing several players leading up to this game. Right back Ramahlwe Mphahlele is out injured, so is captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, while Erick Mathoho is serving a two-match suspension. On the other hand, Khune will return to goals in place of Wayne Sandilands who had the gloves against Cape Verde.
Baxter says while they will be looking for goals, the defence will be key.
“We need a balance in our defence and also have that attacking threat. We are playing against an effective and dangerous attacking unit, so we need to defend properly. We need to be a threat going forward but that should not cost us defensively. We have tried to keep the game plan simple, we have tried to work on a few points that players understand, attitude is one of the aspects,” said the Bafana Bafana mentor.
Baxter says they will have to battle anxiety to get over Burkina Faso.
“When you watch the team play, you ask yourself – do they want it enough or don’t they? Many times it’s the exact opposite of that – in fact they want it so badly that they freeze or get anxious, and when they are like that they forget the instructions and look passive,” said Baxter.
“I want to go into the game with a mental balance, knowing that this is an important game but believing in the process and the game plan, we should not be thinking about what will happen if we don’t win further down the line. We have to go into this game and see the aggression and the attitude, but if we are thinking about anything else then anxiety creeps in and you get a passive team.”
Bafana Bafana are bottom of Group D with one point after three matches. Burkina top the table with six points, level with second-placed Cape Verde while Senegal third on four points.
South Africa and Burkina Faso have met eight times before, with Bafana Bafana winning four matches, and drawing three. Only one match ended in a stalemate.
Baxter’s men have banged the net 11 times and conceded five goals. Their first ever match was played in January 2001 and South Africa won 1-0 with a Shaun Bartlett goal.
This will be the third time Baxter faces the Stallions – in 2004 Bafana Bafana won the first leg 2-0 at Soccer City, but lost the corresponding World Cup qualifier 3-1 in Ouagadougou in 2005.