Under the tutelage of the Stuart Baxter, South Africa registered their maiden competitive victory over Nigeria in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday evening.
“I knew from the start that Bafana were going to win 2-0, because when I gave an interview in Johannesburg a few days ago on radio, they asked me what my prediction was and I said 2-0,” Buckley told Goal.
“The reason was they had a new coach coming in, Stuart Baxter, and he was going to put in all the players who were going to perform and show him that they are good enough to play in the first XI. So, that’s why I knew they would go to Nigeria and bring either one point or three points back," he said.
Although, Buckley was impressed by Bafana’s performance, he added that it was not all smooth sailing especially during the first half.
“The first half wasn’t pleasant to see because the build-up play wasn’t up to standard,” Buckley added.
“Every time they played from the back, there wasn’t options to play in the midfield. And when push came to shove, they played the ball up to the striker to run on to. And when they were defending, the gap between the defenders, midfielders and strikers, there was too much space in between and that’s where Nigeria were catching them. They were playing between those windows and always receiving, turning and counterattacking. Which was putting Bafana on the backfoot,” he continued.
However, the 39-year-old has hailed coach Baxter’s tactical changes at half time.
“If you saw the second half, Stuart Baxter is a very intelligent man. He probably read the first half and had to change things in the second half. Which he did, the players were more compact. There wasn’t that distance between the defenders, midfielders and strikers. And as soon as they won the ball, it was a quick counter attack.”
Meanwhile, Themba Zwane was arguably one of the standout players on the night and was unluckly not have scored after he rattled the woodwork on two separate occasions, and Buckley believes the 27-year-old can be an asset to the national team in future.
“He was a very good player, he will give a lot to the national team, it’s just he had to finish those chances,” Buckley said.
“If he had scored those two chances, he would probably have been man of the match.”
The former Borussia Dortmund winger also lauded the work rate of midfielder Dean Furman.
“Dean Furman impressed me,” Buckley said.
“In the first half, he was doing all the dirty work because he saw the midfield wasn’t functioning properly. I would say the first half he impressed me because he was trying to get the team going,” Buckley stated.
Despite the sudden Euphoria surrounding the national team, Buckley believes it’s important for Bafana to remain grounded.
“The national team should not get they hopes up too high,” Buckley expressed.
“They should keep their feet on the ground and concentrate. As I said Stuart Baxter is a very intelligent man, he knows the South African mentality and he knows the European mentality.
“He has a good squad of quality players, he just needs to get the unity and mentality of the players to always want to win, not to have that fear. And I saw against Nigeria, that was the mentality they had in the second half,” Buckley continued.
“They wanted to put more pressure to win that game which they did and I think in the upcoming games they will be even better.
“I think Stuart Baxter as the head coach is the right guy and he proved it yesterday that the national team can be a good national team,” Buckley concluded.