Ahead of the AFCON qualifying match against Nigeria, Stuart Baxter, South Africa’s coach, says the home fans in Akwa Ibom will be key to the outcome of the encounter.
The Super Eagles have only lost once in twelve games against South Africa but Baxter believes his team can triumph if the Eagles are unable to have their way in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Once that happens, he said the fans will voice their discontent.
“If the first 20 minutes are not what they had hoped‚ then immediately the crowd will make their displeasure felt‚ then they will be baying for blood,” Baxter told The Sowetan.
“And I think that will be advantage us. I think we’ve got to shut the crowd up. That’s one of our big jobs. If we let the crowd get excited‚ and Nigeria enjoy the game‚ then I think 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‚ then 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 in the first game at home.
“Because then there is the scenario that 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.
“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.
“Because that will either bring the crowd into the game‚ or it will take them out a bit.
The coach said South Africa’s qualification for the 2015 AFCON at the expense of the Super Eagles has helped reduced the perceived 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.
“The players have gone there‚ they’ve gone through the mill so to speak. They’re thinking that they have gone there‚ and maybe if they had hung on they could have gotten the result.”
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