Bafana Bafana pressed Egypt high up the field‚ and cut the supply to wingers Mohamed Salah and “Trézéguet”‚ coach Stuart Baxter has explained of the tactics that stifled the life out of the host nation in Saturday night’s last-16 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) shock of the hosts.
It was a risky and brave strategy to employ in front of their 75‚000 home crowd at Cairo International Stadium‚ earning the result that put the smile back on the face of South African sport.
It was perfectly conceptualised‚ and surprised the Pharaohs‚ earning Bafana a place in Wednesday night’s quarterfinal match-up against Nigeria at Cairo International (kickoff 9pm).
It was a turn of the books‚ too‚ for anyone who asserts that Baxter only really knows how to play counterattack football.
“The players had to play in a very brave way to press high against such a good team as Egypt‚” the coach said.
“But for me that was the only way we could win the game. Because if we allowed them to build possession‚ and get the ball into their best players‚ then we would have massive problems.
“So it took courage from the players and I thought they did really well. And I thought we had reasonable control of the game for most parts‚ to get the goal and then make sure that Egypt had to come even more.
“But very proud of the players‚ and very pleased with the result.”
South Africa had been ultra-conservative in their 1-0 Group D defeats against Ivory Coast and Morocco‚ while scrappily edging Namibia 1-0 to qualify as the fourth-best third-placed finishers.
Egypt could never have expected the team who were effectively the 16th-best entrant into the last-16 to come at them at their Cairo International cauldron with such an aggressive tactic.
“We set up to press higher than we’ve pressed in the other games‚” Baxter said.
“It’s difficult for the front players because at the same time as we asked them to press‚ they had to try to screen the though passes into the midfield players and the strikers.
“But they did it very well. And the support and the movement from side to side‚ the lateral movement‚ when Egypt got through the first press was very good.
“And if they got past that line then we had to drop quickly and establish a compact block. And I think even that they did very well.
“People say sometimes that African players can’t be smart‚ and the Northern Africans usually are much better than the Southern Africans‚ but the players‚ they showed a masterclass. It was excellent.”
Now Baxter will scheme at the tactic that might beat Nigeria‚ the team he overcame 2-0 in his first game back in his second stint for Bafana‚ right back at the very start of this tournament in SA’s opening qualifier in Uyo in June 2017.
That was South Africa’s first competitive win against the Super Eagles‚ who beat Cameroon 3-2 in Saturday’s earlier last-16 thriller.
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