Former Bafana Bafana assistant coach Khabo Zondo has promised coach Stuart Baxter that the nation is behind him and his players as they prepare to face Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final match on Wednesday.
The former Golden Arrows coach has praised the English manager for bringing in Thembinkosi Lorch whilst stating that Lebohang Mothiba was outstanding in their attack.
“Yeah, to be honest, it’s a situation reminding us that this is the nature of the game whereby results of the game of the game can be unpredictable,” Zondo told Goal.
“The coach got his plan right, I think the opposition nearly scored in the first half because they had good chances and had they scored, we would talking a different story now,” added the coach.
“I think they were not accurate in the final third and we need to praise the coach for his changes. He brought in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) Player of the Season [Lorch] and he made a huge difference,” he stated.
In addition, the current Nedbank Cup Ke Yona team manager has heaped praise on the likes of Mothiba who had good touches to keep Percy Tau and Lorch in the game.
“He worked very well with Tau, they caused all sorts of troubles for the Egyptians and I was also impressed with the behavior of our number nine, Mothiba. He played his heart out, gelling with teammates, his touches and movements were spot on,” reacted the experienced coach.
“In my opinion, the boys were eager to qualify for the tournament and I believe the attitude was shaky in the group stages. They knew it was a do or die against Egypt – they had nothing to fear,” he stated.
“They were aware that they had nothing to lose in the game against Egypt and a win would have been a bonus. The results of the group stages motivated the boys to go all out and they played against Egypt like soldiers in a war,” reacted the former Tembisa Classic mentor.
The former Arrows mentor is optimistic that a win is possible against the Super Eagles of Nigeria, but warned the players to respect the West Africans.
“We were tactically okay and the boys did well to monitor Mohamed Salah, they ensured he doesn’t play and forced him to go deeper and fetch the ball instead of being of a threat in our defending third – I’d like to see us continuing to plan well against Nigeria,” he continued.
“Yeah you see history doesn’t work in football, yes we beat them in the qualifiers but we must respect them because they know they have to beat South Africa,” explained Zondo.
“What I know is that Nigeria fears South Africa and they don’t like to play against players who are not scared and using pace. We need to do better than in the qualifiers because they want to win now. We need to have the same application we had against Egypt,” he urged.
“It will not be an easy game I can tell you and we will be watching the game with keen interest, but we must not fear them. I’d like to tell the coach that he must keep doing a good job for the nation – Bafana is for the nation and we are happy with his work,” he said.