South Africa coach Stuart Baxter has praised his young squad for capturing the COSAFA Cup Plate trophy and says it has been “mission accomplished” at the regional showpiece tournament.
Baxter selected youth for the COSAFA Cup to give players international exposure with the African Nations Cup qualifies that resume in September in mind.
The team lost on post-match penalties to Madagascar in the quarterfinal after a 0-0 draw, but the recorded handsome victories over Namibia (4-1) and Botswana (3-0).
His side were well on top in the Plate final on Friday night as Motjeka Madisha, Aubrey Modiba and Lebohang Maboe grabbed goals.
“We knew two things going into the game,” Baxter said. “One that Botswana have given every team they have played up until now a really tough time. We knew also they had a lot of games in their legs, so if we could take it into the dying minutes we could catch them on transitions because we were fresher than they were.
“Both things came to fruition, it was a difficult game and Botswana worked really hard as they have done in all the games. We were fresh and had a lot of young players that were hungry to keep on running.”
Baxter says the tournament has been tightly fought and that it was invaluable experience for his side.
“The whole tournament has been close games, I don’t know how many have been decided on penalties. If you are playing against Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia or Namibia, for those young players it is still very important international minutes on the field.
“I don’t think the team can do any more than try to win the game and beat the opponent in the other half. The supporters that came probably enjoyed the game and they made a bit of noise.
“After a very good camp, where some of the young players have made very good progress and have got good international game-time, I would say it is mission accomplished.”