The first 20 minutes are crucial – Baxter

Stuart Baxter
Picture: Veli Nhlapo

If Bafana Bafana can shut the crowd up in the first 20 minutes of their 2019 Africa Cup Nations qualifier against Nigeria in Uyo on Saturday‚ it would advantage South Africa, says Stuart Baxter.

Bafana meet Nigeria in their opening qualifier for Cameroon 2019 having never beaten their nemesis, the Super Eagles, in a competitive match.

This will also be Baxter’s first game in charge at the start of his second tenure as Bafana coach.

“I think we’ve got to shut the crowd up. That’s one of our big jobs‚” Baxter said ahead of his team’s departure to overnight in Lagos‚ then a flight to Uyo in central Nigeria this morning.

“If we let the crowd get excited‚ and Nigeria enjoy the game‚ that’s going to be a big plus for them.

“I think if we can turn that around and frustrate them a bit‚ and be better than they think‚ and have more to say than they think‚ maybe the crowd could be a bit of a negative for them.

“I think that’s important. And maybe if Nigeria could have chosen‚ they might not really have wanted to play us at home in the first game.

“If they lose they’re going to be under tremendous pressure from the beginning.

“So we have to use that. With the mental part of the game‚ the boys have to feel that this is one where we can spoil the party a bit. “We can make it difficult for Nigeria.” Baxter said stifling Nigeria in the opening 20 minutes could be crucial for Bafana.

“It will be big. The critical phases of the game are always important‚ and I think the first period in this game is a big one.

“That will either bring the crowd into the game‚ or it will take them out a bit.

“If the first 20 minutes are not what they had hoped‚ immediately the crowd will make their displeasure felt.

“They will be baying for blood and I think that will advantage us.”

The coach said Bafana’s two draws against Nigeria – including having held a 2-0 lead in Uyo – in the qualifiers for Afcon 2015‚ which South Africa reached at the defending champions’ expense‚ had helped chip away at the Eagles’ psychological advantage.

“I think that having been there and having gone through it‚ it gives the players a sense of calm.

“I don’t think we fear Nigeria as much as respect them‚” the coach said.

Bafana and Nigeria are drawn with Seychelles and Libya in Group E.

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