Bafana Bafana boss Stuart Baxter admits he is stunned by questions over his side’s credentials for the Afcon crown.
Not too long ago, South Africa were being written off as a team incapable of even qualifying for the showpiece in Egypt, which kicks off at the end of next month.
But after naming a provisional 30-man squad for the tournament on Tuesday, Baxter can’t believe that his team went from no-hopers to potential champions.
After revealing that he had a cancer scare ahead of the Bafana’s final qualifier in March, Baxter says: “I find it strange that when we played Libya at home there was a headline that said, ‘To hell with Bafana’ because we drew 0-0, and from that we go to, ‘you’re gonna win the trophy’.
“I am not saying, ‘yes, we’re gonna win it’, but there is a certain scenario that if it happens then Bafana will be a force.”
Bafana face off with powerhouse sides Ivory Coast and Morocco, while also tackling neighbours Namibia in Group D. And Baxter says his team will have to negotiate that before he gets excited about a first title since 1996.
The Scot says: “If we get out of the group stage, which I think we can, then I think... people will not wanna play [against] us.
“I wanna make sure that we leave our hearts out on the field.
“But I do not want to burden the players with saying we must do this or that.
“They don’t think South Africa has done anything for a long time, well let’s do something.”