Stuart Baxter defends defensive Bafana Bafana approach against Libya

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Bafana’s unconventional 3-5-2 formation in the line-up named ahead of Sunday’s match caught many by surprise, while some even doubted whether such a ‘defensive’ approach would earn the necessary draw against The Mediterranean Knights.

But the tactical plan saw the team over the line with a hard-fought 2-1 victory – conceding only through a dubious penalty decision – and Baxter has since defended his thinking.

“Honestly, if it was important for me, I would have stuck with 4-3-2-1 and I wouldn’t have taken any chances,” defended Baxter.

“I’ve worked in many countries now where they’ve had major tournaments and qualified for them, and I saw South Africans during the [2010] World Cup, so the massive motivation was to try and give the people that involvement in a major championship.

“And then, of course, for the players – they deserve to go to a major championship. We haven’t lost in one year; we’ve conceded two goals in this AFCON qualification – one from a very dodgy penalty [against Libya] and an own-goal against Nigeria.

“I don’t think that’s bad, and I don’t know how we can find anything negative in that. We were well aware that if we went there and scraped through, there would be just as much, ‘Well, they didn’t beat Seychelles…’ As much as we had secured qualification.

“So, I thought the [formation and game-plan] was right and it was well carried out by the lads, and every South African should be pleased and proud of them.

“Whether we now go on and finished first or tenth [at AFCON], or whatever we do, that’s something we will do in the spirit – I hope – of cooperation.”

The British tactician also reserved a word of gratitude for the Premier Soccer League, who willingly shifted several Absa Premiership fixtures a week before the crunch clash to allow Bafana more preparation time.

“And, can I just say, one of the things that helped was the PSL’s decision to give us a couple of sessions. They changed games to give me two, possibly three more sessions,” he added. “[It would have been] impossible for me to get the players to where they were on the night of the game, if it wasn’t for those three sessions.

“So, I’d like to thank the PSL, all the clubs, the coaches who gave us their players, and the willingness [to accommodate Bafana] – I hope that is something that will be a bit of a watershed, that we can continue with that.”