Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has lauded his team's performance in Saturday's Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) preparation fixture against Ghana who he believes are among the favourites to clinch the title.
In their first of two test games before the June 21-July 19 championship, Bafana held their own to force a 0-0 draw with Black Stars in the United Arab Emirates.
“It is our first game and so we played everybody in the squad and to draw 0-0 with the Black Stars when we have rotated the whole team, I think it is fair. So an exercise, yes, we would like to win but I think we achieved what we wanted to achieve,” Baxter said after the game, as reported by Safa.
“I looked at the team tonight and I thought there are certain players who put their hands up and there are some players who might have weakened their case. I thought the players [who] one thinks should be in the starting line-up, most of them did well.
“I am always impressed with Percy [Tau] because his attitude is spot on. We asked him to play a slightly different role today and our midfield players and defenders didn’t really defend the way we wanted them to do, meaning Percy had to drop back. But in the second half, we defended better and that is why the likes of Lebogang Maboe and Themba Zwane were more dangerous up the field. We didn’t do that in the first half.
“We are not fully ready but we will be. We have another game against Angola and then with the training, we have in between before the Ivory Coast game, we should then be ready."
Despite the result, Baxter is not getting ahead of himself for the Afcon.
“Ghana are always Ghana, they are always powerful, skilful and fast. They are a very, very good team," said the coach.
“Bafana Bafana is a team in reconstruction, this team is okay, a team that didn’t lose tonight. We have not lost in almost one and a half years now; that is encouraging but to talk of being favourites will be like stretching it a bit far. There is Cameroon, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco who all feel they have a much better chance than us.
“What we need to do is improve and keep improving and play our game with confidence and not to show exaggerated respect for our opponents. If we can win a few games, then you never know what happens next."
South Africa, who take on Angola in a second test game on Wednesday, have been drawn against giants Cote d'Ivoire and Morocco in the Afcon group stage. They also play neighbours Namibia.
Ghana, on the other hand, have been pitted against Cup holders Cameroon, as well as Benin and Guinea-Bissau in Group F.