Johannesburg - The trip from Cape Verde was long and sombre after Bafana Bafana’s 2-1 defeat to that country’s national team on Friday, and players and the technical team tried to figure out what happened.
The players were upset after what should have been an easy game. But Bafana need to respond urgently to this shock setback, and Tuesday’s return game against Cape Verde becomes a must-win situation.
The South African senior national team has put itself in a difficult situation after losing to the Atlantic Ocean islanders.
Halfway through the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Bafana’s chances of going to Russia are in jeopardy, and Group D is now wide open.
The team has four points after three games – a loss, a win and a draw. They had hoped to go to the final group game in Senegal with the qualification already sealed.
Bafana have three more games to ensure qualification to the biggest football spectacle in the world, and they may need to win all of them.
They will get the chance to avenge their defeat at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Tuesday night.
Bafana coach Stuart Baxter said he still had to decide whether to change his team or to stick with the same players.
“I know those who played want to get their revenge or give others a chance. We still have to decide and also find a centre back.”
One area he has to fix is the central defence, as Eric Mathoho has been suspended following his red card on Friday.
Morgan Gould is expected to slot into the spot, but this might not be the only change from the starting line-up, as Thulani Serero and Kamohelo Mokotjo could get a place.
Baxter admitted his players did not show up on Friday and said he expected a much-improved display on Tuesday.
He said there were no excuses for the team’s poor display. He would accept the backlash from South Africans as he understood their unhappiness.
“If it is a backlash of disappointment, I’d accept it, but if it is unwarranted, I will defend my players. I know people are disappointed and don’t take excuses,” said Baxter.
“The referee did not make it easy for us, but I still think that, had we shown composure and not panicked, we would have done better,” he said.
“We were not taking responsibility on the ball and losing it too cheaply. Our players didn’t reach their normal standards as we didn’t show that focus and composure.”
Baxter did not think Bafana reacted well to Cape Verde’s equaliser in the 32nd minute, after Tokelo Rantie opened the scoring in the 14th minute.
“It was more of an attitude than a tactical problem. We tried to come back in the second half even after Tower [Mathoho] got sent off.”
He was shown a straight red card for a late tackle in the 66th minute.
Baxter refused to blame Mathoho for his suspension. He would learn from his mistake, Baxter said.
“It is all about composure, focus and discipline, and you have to have them all. He has to learn from this, but he will come right.
“I can’t understand how the ref got this send-off, but it didn’t make it easy.”
Baxter said he was not sure if the penalty decision was the right one, but said he did not want to make it an excuse.
The referee ruled that Dean Furman committed a foul and Nuno Rocha made it 2-1 to the hosts.
With their confidence boosted after their first win in three World Cup qualifiers, Cape Verde are aiming to make it a double over Bafana.
Coach Lúcio Antunes said they had targeted six points from Bafana. He believes they can get another three in Durban.
“Our campaign is back on track and we will be in contention for a place in Russia.
“I thought we played well and we are going to Durban to get three more points,” Antunes said.