Bafana should not get carried away by Egypt upset

2019-07-08 17:46
Stuart Baxter
Stuart Baxter (Getty Images)

Cape Town - "Critics," it has been suggested with some degree of authenticity, "are the people who come out of the hills to shoot the wounded after the battle is over."

And, no doubt, it is a sentiment Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter and his much-maligned squad would have doubtlessly agreed with following the barrage of brickbats hurled at them after barely qualifying for the last 16 round of the Africa Cup of Nations as the last of the four best third-placed teams from the initial six opening rounds of the competition, with desultory 1-0 defeats against the Ivory Coast and Morocco and an only marginally better 1-0 victory over minnows Namibia.

All that, of course, has now changed colouring like an uncanny chameleon following the stunning 1-0 upset win over hosts Egypt that has earned for Bafana a quarter-final appearance on Wednesday against old nemesis Nigeria, with the self-same critics who were ready to ring Baxter's neck, in particular, hailing everyone connected with the squad as unmitigated heroes.

One soccer writer, it seems, was actually instructed by his employers to pen a story indicting the amiable and usually logical Baxter for all Bafana's woes - no matter what the journalist himself thought - and so he went about the business of prematurely digging the coach's grave with enthusiasm.

Another commentator who had proclaimed before the Egypt clash that he would "not be surprised if South Africa lost 7-0," is now insisting he would not be surprised if Bafana went on to win what has become an excruciatingly unpredictable event.

The most creditable surmising, however, rests somewhere between the reckless cascade of extremes, with a victory over Nigeria's "Super Eagles" probably more difficult to achieve than that over the faltering Pharaohs, whose status as tournament favourites was probably only made valid by home-ground advantage.

Nigeria are currently ranked third in Africa against Egypt's eighth place and are traditionally more difficult nuts to crack than the North Africans, with Bafana having only previously beaten "The Super Eagles" twice in 14 games, with two draws and seven defeats against six wins from 11 games against Egypt with one draw and four losses.

AFCON 2019, thus far, has also brought home forcibly an overall levelling in ability of the 24 teams, with unexpected results almost becoming the norm, the standard generally showing an improvement, but with Senegal the continent's leading world-ranked team in 22nd place, Africa is lacking a side able to measure up to the world's top bracket.

In this environment, South Africa need not feel any of their remaining opponents in the competition are unbeatable.

But, at the same time, the biggest danger for Bafana may well be to follow a familiar trend and be carried away by the heady Egyptian upset - and the lurking danger of now facing a team that has often proved their downfall.

Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  afcon 2019  |  soccer


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