Cape Town – The drawing board awaits head coach Stuart Baxter following Bafana Bafana's 1-0 defeat against Ivory Coast in their opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations clash on Monday, Tashreeq Vardien writes.
South Africa's next Group D opponents are Namibia on Friday, June 28 at 22:00 SA time.
Here are FIVE things Baxter should consider before their next match.
1. Game management, but …
It was never going to be an easy match, but South Africa made it hard on themselves by allowing Ivory Coast to get comfortable on the ball in the opening 20 minutes.
Throughout the game, the Elephants pressed each Bafana Bafana player as soon as they got hold of the ball and showed physical strength in each duel that was either won or lost.
South Africa could barely string a series of passes together which was painful to witness.
The excuse could be that Cairo was experiencing a heatwave as the temperature gauge nearly reached 40 degrees Celsius and game management was important.
But they lost the tug of war and never really settled despite glimpses of what they could do on attack.
Bafana's first real threat at goal came in the 25th minute as captain Thulani Hlatshwayo headed a Percy Tau cross inches above the crossbar.
2. Midfield engine needs amending
The game plan was to stifle the Ivorians' front three that consisted of Jonathan Kodjia (who scored the winning goal), Jean Michael Ser and star forward Nicolas Pepe.
Dean Furman and Kamohelo Mokotjo were sitting ducks in front of the defensive line and often left space between themselves and the Bafana attack which failed to receive any decent service from midfield to apply pressure.
Percy Tau, Lebohang Maboe and Themba Zwane had to collect the ball from deep in their own half to start an attack. By the time they would get into the final third of the pitch, the Elephants defence were on them like hyenas feasting on a carcass.
The defensive-minded Baxter should have tweaked his tactics for the second half – either sacrifice Furman and Mokotjo or attempt to deploy one of them further up the field.
For Friday, it's unlikely Baxter will make wholesale changes as their Southern African neighbours don't hold a high rank in the football world which may see the coach give the same XI a second chance.
However, the Scotsman should give Bongani Zungu and Thulani Serero a start and drop one of the defensive midfielders and perhaps bench Maboe.
3. Full-backs and wingers need to do more!
It was frustrating to see Ivory Coast do so well by using the entire field to create chunks of space for their full-backs and wingers.
Thamsanqa Mkhize and Sifiso Hlanti had to deal with top European wingers and full-backs and fared well defensively. However, they were completely dull and lacked creativity when going forward.
Once again, Baxter's tactics failed to allow South Africa to push forward as the Elephants possessed the ability to hurt them on the counter-attack – and they did.
The link-up play with between the full-backs and wingers did not trouble Ivory Coast as it should have. More should be done to exploit opponents out wide which was not properly executed.
4. Launch the Lorch
What surprised me most was that Absa Premiership Player of the Year Thembinkosi Lorch did not seeRead More