Despite having beaten Egypt in the previous round, the Bafana coach is taking nothing for granted ahead of their showdown with Nigeria
South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter has urged his team to respect but not fear Nigeria when they lock horns on Wednesday night in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal.
Bafana Bafana are flying high following their stunning win over Egypt in the Round of 16, leading many to suggest they might be favourites heading into the encounter. However, the 65-year-old mentor has played down such suggestions.
“Nigeria are absolutely one of the best teams on the continent and have been for a long time. One game doesn’t make us favourites,” Baxter was quoted as saying by AFP ahead of the game.
“I don’t think he’s (Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr) fooling anybody.
“When we hit a balance between good organisation and getting on the ball and playing with pace and using our natural inherent technique we can give anybody a game.
“We’ll be respecting Nigeria but not fearing them. We will have to produce a very good South Africa performance to beat them.”
Nigeria are certainly no strangers to the Southern Africans, having previously met on several occasions, including the most recent 2019 Afcon qualifiers.
Although Nigeria have largely dominated the fixture over the years, Baxter hopes his side will be motivated for the match.
“Dare I say the crowds in South Africa for some international matches are quite sparse as well,” he said.
“The players were inspired by the crowd the other evening, but I hope they don’t need that sort of crowd to find that sort of inspiration.
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“This is special now, you’re getting to the sharp end of the stick and it’s people that think like winners who will end up winning to the tournament.
“I think we know we’ve got a tough opponent. I think we know we’ve got to be completely focused and I think we understand that it is going to take all the mental energy we can muster and not be dependent on getting up because the crowd is up.”