IT MAY have been the anguish of missing out on a place at the World Cup, or desperation to keep his job, but Stuart Baxter’s promise to play young players in the last Fifa World Cup qualifier against Senegal tonight might just earn him admirers.
Not everyone will be sold on his lip service as yet. After all, it is hard to have total belief in a man who took the country years back, recalling Morgan Gould and Siphiwe Tshabalala to the national team, while Clayton Daniels also found himself in the team, albeit out of sorts in international football.
Bafana Bafana will not be playing at the World Cup next year and what that means is that despite their massive talents, players like Percy Tau, Phakamani Mahlambi and Motjeka Madisha, will practically have to wait five more years before they can have a chance at the biggest showpiece of them all.
Whether Baxter is honourable enough to keep his promise of playing young players at a time he is desperate to keep his job is another story. In any case, the match tonight could be the last where the Briton would be barking instructions to Bafana players, as he could be facing the sack when the team returns home.
But a line-up that could feature Ronwen Williams, Madisha, Mahlambi and others who are not so young but still able to make it to the next World Cup like Keagan Dolly and Bongani Zungu playing starring roles in the team might strengthen his case. Baxter said it is difficult to bring in young players during the qualifiers as the country will not be thinking about building but earning spots at major tournaments.
“We need to be more clinical in front of the goal. Take advantage of our good play. I like the way we are playing, but it is difficult to promote that when you don’t win,” Baxter said. “We are in a situation where we want to develop, bring in more younger players, implement a style and at the same time we want to win qualification. The way forward, we persevere.
“We try to rectify our mistakes and we start looking to the long-term goal of bringing in young players. The game will be big and the players will want to be involved and show us what they can do. “Let’s make a big push to try to achieve a good finish,” Bafana coach said ahead of tonight’s dead rubber in Dakar.
Others who should make it to the next camp and actually get game time are Luther Singh, Lebogang Mothiba, Kobamelo Kodisang, Reeve Frosler and Tebogo Mokoena. Even Senegal will have younger players coming in, with stars like Sadio Mane and Keita Balde due to be rested.