Stuart Baxter guards against lofty expectations on Bafana Bafana at 2019 AFCON


The current crop of Bafana players have restored the pride in the national team since qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with a resounding win over Libya in their final qualifier two weeks ago.

While the tournament may be over two months away, many have already jumped ahead to setting down minimum expectations for the team, such as making it through the group stages or going all the way to winning it.

However, Baxter has argued that the only thing his charges should focus on in this year’s continental showdown, after missing out on three of the previous five tournaments, is to make themselves be counted as a team worth respecting, regardless of where they end up.

“What I want them to do in Egypt is, I don’t think we should set any [targets] – ‘Well, now I think we should go and win it’ or ‘Well, now semi-finals will be okay,’” explained Baxter.

“We have just qualified for the first time in a long time and qualified well. Now I think that the next step in the development of this squad is to go there and develop a personality and an identity.

“I’ve told the players, ‘When we go to Egypt, I want you to tell people, this is South Africa, and this is what we are and be proud of that.’

“Because if they can be proud of that, then I think everybody else will be proud of that. That is our goal – if it takes us to third place or winning it, and we can’t do anymore then we should realise that, that is progress and that is development.”

The Brit has also compared Bafana to the golden generation of England, who had the same lofty expectations upon their shoulders but crumbled at every hurdle, insisting that this should not be the case with the current crop of South African players.

“I was part of England national teams with the golden generation of Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, and these people, who failed,” he added.

“And they failed because the expectations were so high, and in England we were saying we’re so good, but we didn’t really get it.

“If you let them play, they would be good, but you’re tying weights around their necks, and I don’t want these lads to have weights around their necks.

“They deserve to be going to Egypt, so let’s go and have a really good go at it, let them know that South Africa are not there to be tourists, that we have an identity, and show the same fierce strength and determination to do that job [in Tunisia], and I’ll stand by them if they finish fifth, sixth, seventh or win it.”