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Baxter tempers expectations ahead of AFCON

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter believes his side need to measure themselves against their own expectations and not those of the nation ahead of the upcoming AFCON championship.

On Tuesday, Baxter insisted that labelling his side as pre-tournament favourites 'would be ridiculous'. After going unbeaten through their qualifying campaign, hopes have been raised back home, but Baxter was quick to temper expectations and believes the side need to judge themselves on their own development.

“If I’m trying to rationalise how people perceive [us], you’re always going to be like a dog chasing his own tail – you’ll never catch it,” said Baxter.

“So, you’re always going to be thinking, ‘Well…’ You know, I read a newspaper and they said, ‘Now we have to go and win it; we’re not just there to make up the numbers.’

“If you take that as your starting point, you’re struggling. You’ve got to take, as your starting point, where you actually are in the process of development.

“I think this squad, compared to one-and-a-half years ago, has been turned over completely. It’s a work-in-progress, it really is.

“You’ve got young players that have burst through; you’ve got more young players coming through. I think you’ve got a different mindset now.”

Bafana have been drawn in Group D, the so-called 'Group of Death' alongside Ivory Coast, Morocco and Namibia. The top-ranked third placed team will qualify for the knockout stages, however, which is something that could see Bafana qualify.

And Baxter simply wants to see his side give three 'good performances' in the group stages.

“I will see a good tournament as establishing ourselves as one of the nations that should be at this AFCON,” he added.

“We’ve got to go there, and we’ve got to give, first of all, three performances that get us through the group stages.

“If we give three great performances and get done on an offside goal in the last game, and don’t go through, will we be able to put down the disappointment of not going through and identify that actually we’re on the way to establishing a good way of playing?

“I hope we can. But the professional in me, and we’re in a results-driven industry, says I want to get through the group, because if we do so then I know this squad is capable of raising its game another notch.”