Bafana coach believes Ghana is difficult to overcome
Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter believes "nerves of steel" could be the deciding factor in the crucial World Cup qualifying game against Ghana on Saturday - and South Africa should be at a distinct advantage in this respect.
"It's invariably easier rising to the occasion and playing with spirit and aggression in home games," said the Bafana coach after a gruelling training session at Johannesburg Stadium on Wednesday, " especially in front of a huge, enthusiastic crowd - which I am hoping to see at FNB Stadium.
"And," added Baxter, "in the case of a match-up between two well-matched teams who are brimming with talented players, it's the advantages accruing from playing at home that should make the difference."
The Bafana coach, however, warned against under-estimating a Black Stars' team that contains two world-class players in Juventus's Steven Appiah and FC Lyon's Michael Essien, as well as a whole host of skilful performers who are able to gel into an effective combination.
"But," said Baxter, "the attitude I have detected among the players in the training camp this week suggests this will not happen.'
"And a uniform enthusiasm," added the Bafana coach, "is what counts for most at times like this."
Look like a million dollars in training
Baxter said there had been "pleasing aspects and others that were not so pleasing" during Wednesday's training session.
"But this does not worry me over-much," added the Bafana coach. "Form in practice before a major fixture can be totally deceptive. I've seen players look like a million dollars in training and then perform miserably on match day - and vice versa.
"The main thing," said Baxter, "Is that I am happy with the talent at my disposal and the ability of the players to do the job at hand - even with five regulars like Hans Vonk, Benni McCarthy, Sibusiso Zuma, Bradley Carnell and Cyril Nzama absentees for one reason or another."
And leading South African goalscorer Shaun Bartlett epitomised the general attitude when he proclaimed: "We know a victory against Ghana will take us to the doorstep of qualifying for next year's World Cup in Germany - and that is where we plan to be going."
Baxter confirmed he had asked Safa to take up the matter of Elrio van Heerden's non-appearance at the Bafana camp with Fifa. The FC Copenhagen midfielder is the only player who has failed to turn up without a valid reason.