Playing Andile Jali as a deep striker behind centre-forward Percy Tau in Bafana Bafana’s 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Burkina Faso raised eyebrows‚ but it proved a brave masterstroke for coach Stuart Baxter.
Jali‚ who normally operates as a central midfielder‚ looked a little bit awkward initially in the unfamiliar role at FNB Stadium but ultimately settled well with his physical presence and passing which played a crucial role in keeping Burkina Faso on the back foot.
Baxter’s game plan of also utilising an attacking central midfield behind Jali and Tau in the form of Bongani Zungu and Kamohelo Mokotjo worked about as well as he could have asked for in a first half.
In the period‚ Bafana overwhelmed the Stallions with quick goals by Tau and wingers Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi.
Jali laid on a superb defence-splitting pass for Zwane’s strike.
“I looked at this game when I did my analysis‚ and I felt very strongly that Andile Jali was the right one to have as the No.10. I could have gone with Sibusiso Vilakazi‚ Keagan Dolly or Lebogang Manyama. But when I’d seen Burkina Faso play they kept quite tight lines and it was difficult getting the ball between the lines. And if you got the ball between the lines you had to have a nice close touch‚ and you needed to pass quickly.
And I think that’s Andile. He started off a little bit worried about his defending – which is a good sign. And he wondered if he should go or stay‚ or how should he get free‚” said Baxter.
“That was more to do with us not putting him in (to danger areas). But once we started knowing where he was going to be and getting him on the ball in that transition phase‚ then the movement of Tau then comes into play‚ and the movement of Zwane and even Vilakazi‚ driving in with the ball and allowing the fullbacks out wide.
That was how I envisaged the game. And because the players played well‚ then people pat me on the back. And if they didn’t play well then people say‚ ‘You didn’t have a gameplan‚ and a plan B or plan C’. But I think the players made it happen. And in our attacking play I thought we got what we wanted.”
The victory kept Bafana in with a chance of reaching Russia 2018 but they have to beat Senegal at home on November 10 and away on November 14 to qualify.
by Marc Strydom