Stuart Baxter has cautioned Bafana Bafana fans against getting carried away and expecting them to go on to win the Africa Cup of Nations in three months’ time following qualification at the weekend.
Speaking to the media after the national team arrived from Tunisia, where they beat Libya 2-1 to book their ticket to the tournament, the coach suggested that Bafana still had to catch up with the rest of the continents’ superpowers having failed to qualify for the 2017 AFCON as well as last year’s World Cup in Russia.
“We have just qualified for the first time in a long time (Bafana were at the 2015 AFCON under then-coach Shakes Mashaba), and we have qualified well,” Baxter said.
“Now, I think the next step in the development of the squad is to go there and develop a personality, an identity. I have said to the players I want them to tell people that this is South Africa, this is what we are and be proud of that. That is our goal – and if it takes us to third place or winning it or we can’t do anymore, then we should realise that is progress.”
He also warned against raising expectations for a side that didn’t win a match at the 2015 tournament, hadn’t been at the AFCON two years later and missed out on the global showpiece in Russia.
“I don’t want these lads to have a weight tied around their necks. I want us to go and really have a good go. Let them know that South Africa are not here to be tourists. Let them know we have an identity and show the same fierce strength we showed in Libya. And I will stand by them even if they finish sixth or seventh,” said Baxter.