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Much work ahead - Baxter 02/04/04
New Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter, who left Loftus Road in London on Wednesday evening happy with what he saw, believes there remains much work ahead if South Africa are to become kings of African football again.

The Englishman was a keen observer in the stands as Bafana Bafana were edged 1-0 by a powerful Australian lineup at the home of English Division Two club Queens Park Rangers in a friendly international

He said he was particularly impressed by the natural skill of the players.

"I do not want to praise individuals after watching the team for the first time. But, what I saw gave me tremendous hope this team is on the mend, the former England under-19 coach said on Thursday.

"I was really impressed by the spirit and attitude they displayed against a really top Australian side who are highly-rated in world football.

"I see tremendous hope for the future. I relish this challenge of getting Bafana back as the leading country in Africa. I am confident we can achieve our goals, he added.

"But, we have to make changes, which I will introduce slowly. I need to restructure certain aspects of the team.

The 50-year-old Baxter commended the Bafana Bafana players for pushing an Australian team, who beat England 3-1 a year ago, right down to the wire.

He said he hoped the game had finally put the ghost of the disastrous African Cup of Nations in Tunisia to rest.

South Africa, the 1996 African champions, suffered the ignominy of bowing out in the first round of the continental showpiece earlier this year.

"There is a lot of hard work ahead. But the bleeding and the disappointment of Tunisia is over. We have turned the corner.

Baxter, however, urged the public not to expect miracles and stressed that there remains a substantial amount of work ahead.

A priority will be to make the Bafana Bafana strike force more composed in front of goals.
"I cannot change things overnight, it will take time. But one area I will be working on is retaining possession and probing harder for goals, said Baxter.

"We tend to go forward in short bursts and need more finesse in sustaining our attacks and then we will start murdering teams.

Baxter is confident to have everything in order come the start of the countrys World Cup qualifying campaign against the Cape Verde Islands at home on June 5.

He is, however, concerned about the match fitness of some of the European-based players.

"One area of worry that I will have to look into is the fact that some of the players were not match-fit as they had not been playing regularly for their clubs.

"That does pose a problem as I need my key players to be 100% fit for the World Cup qualifiers.

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