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Africa Cup of Nations Qualification

COMMENT: Why Stuart Baxter has to beat Libya with this Bafana Bafana squad

16:19 EAT 07/09/2018
Bafana Bafana, Stuart Baxter
Goal takes a look at why Bafana must beat the Mediterranean Knights on Saturday afternoon at Moses Mabhida Stadium

Despite seeing his camp turning into a hospital ward, Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter will still hope to register his second Group E win in their 2019 Caf Afirican Cup of Nations qualifier over Libya.

The national team has been a notable absentee from major international tournaments, and they will have to win by hook or crook on Saturday afternoon at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Bafana started on a high against one of the most powerful nations in Africa, Nigeria, with a 2-0 away in June last year, and this means the hosts will now work hard to bag their second win.

With injuries to players such as Hlompho Kekana, Lebo Mothiba, Bongani Zungu and Themba Zwane, Goal takes a look at why Bafana must beat the Mediterranean Knights.


 HOME GROUND ADVANTAGE


Playing at the comfort of your home offers pleasure and an added boost to any team, especially to the national side after missing their key players ahead of the clash.

Both nations started their Group E campaign with wins - Libya beat Seychelles 5-1, and both teams have three points in the group.

However, Bafana have a fair opportunity to beat the Libyans and although the coach has lamented injuries in his squad, the team has received a warm welcome in Durban, and Baxter must capitalise on using the support to his advantage to stun the unstable North Africans.

Moreover, the fact that the visitors are struggling to set up a training camp or play their home games in Tripoli due to civil wars should help the national side to capitalise.

Football is not about off the field issues and Libya are used to their situation as they have not played at home for some time, but Baxter has all the chances of bagging his second win.


BAXTER'S SQUAD


Take nothing away from the injured players such as Mothiba who he is one for the future and his European experience was definitely going to help the national team, but the team still has quality.

There are experienced players in goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Percy Tau among others who can help to ensure the side retains maximum points.

Yes, he announced that his planning has somewhat suffered a blow because he wanted to unsettle his visitors with a certain plan, but he had time to change his planning because the injured players were excused from the camp a few days before the tie.

It is good to respect the opponent, but Baxter has a strong squad and to rue the absence of certain players could also destabilise his camp because many would feel the coach doesn't trust them.

The only thing the manager must do now is to plan with what he has at his disposal because a call-up is an honour to any player and the players will want to retain their spots in their next encounter against Seychelles.

Players such as Vincent Pule and Bradley Grobler are in their best form so far based on their domestic runs, the coach must just plan to get an early goal and ensure they remain solid at the back because the mission is to get a win.


 BAXTER'S REPLACEMENTS


The likes of Tiyani Mabunda, Aubrey Modiba and Mxolisi Macuphu are also at their best in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and their inclusion in the squad is justifiable.

Losing players through injuries is part of the game, and the coach and his technical team were smart to beef up with deserving players.

Some are making their debuts in the squad such as Pule and Macuphu, and it would be good to see the mentor showing faith in these guys.

They may repay the faith by scoring goals and delivering a solid display, in addition, Mabunda needs no introduction in the game whether internationally or domestically, he is one of the trusted defensive midfielders in the country.


 SOLID DEFENCE


With the defence manned by the likes of Hlatshwayo, Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Innocent Maela and Buhle Mkhwanazi among others, Baxter will have to field a solid back four.

The fact that the Mediterranean Knights have netted five goals against Seychelles in their opening match should be a cause for concern for the hosts.

Libya will undoubtedly want to secure the full three points to avoid heading into their match against the Super Eagles under pressure.

A win for them (Libya) will make the job easier when they face the Nigerians because they will aim for a draw. So, a stalemate against Bafana will come as a loss for them. So, this means they want a win.

This pushes Baxter and his troops to fight with everything at their disposal to get a victory and ensure that they do so against Seychelles to remain as favourites of qualifying for Cameroon by the time they welcome Nigeria at home.

For now, the battle for the top spot is between Libya and Bafana because Nigeria did not have the brightest start at at home and the 1996 African champions remain favourites to emerge as number one after this round of matches.

Should they lose this clash, pressure will continue to mount after their failure to reach the 2017 Caf African Cup of Nations and the 2018 Fifa World Cup tournaments.