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Bafana's Baxter not feeling external pressure ahead of Nigeria clash

Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter says he is not feeling any pressure from outside as his side prepare to face Nigeria in a must-win Afcon 2019 Group E qualifier at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter (right) puts his players through their paces during a training session on 15 November 2018. Picture: @BafanaBafana/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter says he is not feeling any pressure from outside as his side prepare to face Nigeria in a must-win Afcon 2019 Group E qualifier at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.

The national men’s side have been heavily criticised following their failure to beat minnows Seychelles away, instead played out to a frustrating goalless draw.

That result has thrown a spanner in South Africa’s qualification process, where they now find themselves having to beat Nigeria to seal their place in Cameroon next year before the final qualifier against Libya in March.

There have also been calls for Baxter’s head, but the Scotsman is adamant that he feels no pressure.

“I don’t feel pressure of what is expected by others, the only pressure I feel comes from myself and what I want the team to achieve. I can’t control all of the other things like how sad or how happy people are, but what I can control is what we do, what we say and what we feel.

“I then try and get inside a bit of a bubble and say that there is pressure, but you have to make it your friend. You can’t take pressure as your enemy and you have to let it fire you up instead of frightening you to death.”

Baxter also says he tries to keep the players as motivated as possible and not focus too much on a negative outcome of a possible defeat to Nigeria.

“I always tell the players that you can only effect what you can effect. Let’s say you as a journalist are told that you have to write a piece and if that piece isn’t up to scratch then you are going to get the sack. If you worry about getting the sack you won't concentrate on writing the piece, that is the way that I want the players to think.”

Baxter and Bafana can draw motivation from the fact that they are yet to taste defeat in this qualification process, having won two games and drawn twice, with one of their wins coming against Nigeria away in Uyo last year.

Kickoff at the FNB Stadium is at 15:30 on Saturday afternoon.

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