South Africa coach Stuart Baxter dismissed the assertion from his Nigeria counterpart Gernot Rohr that Bafana Bafana are the favourites heading into Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final showdown.
Baxter’s side shocked tournament hosts Egypt in the last 16 having only scraped through the group stage, but he was quick to temper expectations against a Nigeria team that eliminated defending champions Cameroon in the last round.
“Nigeria are absolutely one of the best teams on continent and have been for a long time. One game doesn’t make us favourites. I don’t think he’s (Rohr) fooling anybody,” Baxter told reporters Tuesday.
“When we hit a balance between good organisation and getting on the ball and playing with pace and using our natural inherent technique we can give anybody a game.
“We’ll be respecting Nigeria but not fearing them. We will have to produce a very good South Africa performance to beat them.”
The two are teams are familiar opponents as South Africa and Nigeria were paired together in qualifying. Baxter oversaw a 2-0 away win in Uyo at the start of the campaign before a 1-1 draw in Johannesburg.
South Africa’s shock 1-0 defeat of Egypt was played in front of a capacity 75,000 crowd at Cairo International Stadium, and although a much lower attendance is anticipated at the same venue Wednesday, Baxter doesn’t believe that will have an impact on his players.
“Dare I say the crowds in South Africa for some international matches are quite sparse as well,” he said. “The players were inspired by the crowd the other evening, but I hope they don’t need that sort of crowd to find that sort of inspiration.
“This is special now, you’re getting to the sharp end of the stick and it’s people that think like winners who will end up winning to tournament.
“I think we know we’ve got a tough opponent. I think we know we’ve got to be completely focused and I think we understand that it is going to take all the mental energy we can muster and not be dependent on getting up because the crowd is up.”