Thursday May 31, 2018. 11:00
South Africa coach Stuart Baxter says the country’s goal-scoring problem is down to a lack of composure and an inability to slow down at the crucial finishing moment.
Bafana Bafana have been without a prolific striker since the heydays of Benni McCarthy more than a decade ago, while the country’s domestic game is rife with poor finishing and characterised by a lean goal return.
As evidence of this, the Absa Premiership’s leading scorer award this year was shared by Mamelodi Sundowns’ Percy Tau and Polokwane City’s Rodney Ramagalela. Both netted just 11 league goals in a 30-match season.
“I've said it for a long time‚ I think it's a South Africa trait‚” Baxter replied when asked why South African football features such poor finishing.
“And when I say that‚ I don't mean that as a criticism‚ saying that‚ 'We have no goal-scorers'.
“I think that a characteristic of South African players and football is our speed and mobility.
“I don't think we use our speed optimally. Because our strikers‚ when we are in that moment of finishing‚ we are still going too quick. We don't slow down.”
Baxter is preparing a second-string Bafana Bafana team for their entry into the Cosafa Cup this weekend, and finishing off chances is very much a key facet he is focusing on.
“We use the word composure. But‚ with our speed and mobility‚ we love it when we play quick football around the box. But when we're actually going to shoot we're still moving too quickly,” said the Englishman.
“And so the striker becomes horribly out of balance‚ balloons the ball over the bar‚ and we say‚ 'How could he do that?'
“But we do it continually. It isn't one player that you would say‚ 'He was hopeless today'.
“And I think that young players have to be taught how to manage that speed. So if you're pressing‚ it's not a good thing to be sprinting at 100 miles an hour two metres before you're at the opponent‚ because he just beats you. You sell yourself.
“So there are certain times when our speed is a disadvantage. And I think we need to be taught at a younger age how to manage that speed.
“Because we love it when we play one touch and we get great movement and we break quickly. But don't use the speed when you're running at full pelt in the penalty area and you're going to try and balance yourself and shoot.
“And I think if we do that‚ the technique is OK‚ but perhaps with this mentality of‚ 'We don't have a good goal-scorer'‚ the confidence is not.
“And then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy where we're constantly moving too fast in the box and missing the chances.
“I think if we mentally calm down‚ physically calm down‚ technically we can score goals.”