With his Bafana Bafana side humiliated by Madagascar in the Cosafa Cup quarterfinals, the coach gave his judgement of what the difference between that defeat and their 4-1 win over Namibia, just three days later, was.
He said it was down to players not being disciplined enough to carry out instructions.
It was that simple. And they’d better be listening when they face Botswana in the plate final in Polokwane on Friday (5pm).
The Englishman explained that his side didn’t keep to the structure set out in their game plan against Madagascar and then they blew Namibia away using the same playbook.
Against Namibia, the plan worked a treat.
By using his wide midfielders in a 3-4-3, Bafana could stretch and draw out the Brave Warriors defenders and exploit the space near the goal and on the edge of the penalty area to score goals.
Against Madagascar, the coach said his manne didn’t do that and didn’t create as many chances (even though in the first half in the quarterfinal, Bafana wasted at least three clear scoring openings).
But for the sake of my argument, I’ll go along with Baxter because he is not the only respected coach who has the same idea.
Ajax Cape Town boss Muhsin Ertugral said the same thing of his team as they struggled to avoid relegation from the PSL this season.
Now before you say that these coaches are [email protected] because their teams are doing badly right now, these men are winners and have led clubs to big prizes in South African football.
Muhsin, for all his tactical talk, put it even more simply.
He told me that the problem with our players is: “The players see a problem and then want to solve the problem on their own, they don’t think of how the team can solve the problem.”
Classic Muhsin trying to sound like Mr Miyagi.But what he and Baxter are saying is exactly the same thing.
With 10 outfield players on the pitch, the structure the coach puts in place creates the space and options for the players to find a way to goal.
And once you find your way to the goal, you have to put the ball into the back of the net.
It sounds so simple.
But you hear it week in, week out. Even Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane moaned about their teams when they didn’t win.
And you will hear it again when the World Cup kicks off next week.
Unfortunately for us, Bafana will not be in Russia.
But if the likes of Aubrey Modiba, Siyanda Xulu, Siphesihle Ndlovu can learn and step up to the next level, maybe we’ll be at Qatar 2022.