South Africa loses 1-0 at home to Norway
South Africa fans showed their disappointment in a 1-0 friendly loss to Norway on Tuesday as coach Gordon Igesund races to get the host's new and inexperienced team ready for the African Cup of Nations.
Some supporters were calling for Igesund to substitute players as early as the first half at Cape Town Stadium after Norway captain Tarik Elyounoussi cut across two defenders to fire home the winner in the 41st minute for the understrength visitors.
South Africa has lost two of its last three warm-up games and has just one more friendly before it kicks off the continental championship in less than two weeks.
It wasted a bunch of chances against a Norway team made up of only home-based players, with striker Katlego Mphela, fellow forward Tokelo Rantie, midfielder Thuso Phala and substitute Thulani Serero all missing good opportunities.
The fans were more positive in their support at the end as Bafana Bafana attacked gamely, but the inexperienced home team lacked the composure to convert its dominance and looked a shadow of the team that battled bravely to the brink of the last 16 at its home World Cup nearly three years ago under Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira.
''Obviously I'm disappointed,'' Igesund said, ''because I thought today we really played well. We created a lot of chances. I can see we're improving. There's still work to do ... we'll get that right before the first game (of the African Cup).''
Amid a match-fixing scandal relating to 2010 World Cup warm-up games that has seen figures from the South African Football Association, including its president, suspended and then reinstated, and with a detailed investigation now planned, South Africa's uncertain and at times naive form on the pitch is causing most concern for the home fans ahead of the African championship.
Reinstated SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani watched on at the stadium as Rantie missed the best opening with six minutes of regulation to go when he blazed his shot over the bar from in front after a perfect pullback from fit-again Ajax midfielder Serero on the right.
Earlier, Mphela turned cleverly to beat his marker in the 16th minute but had a shot blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Rune Almenning. The hardworking Phala then threatened down the right wing and his dangerous low cross fell to Reneilwe Letsholonyane, who couldn't force the ball through a group of defenders.
Norway's lone clear chance before the goal was when Bjorn Helge Riise's long-range drive was scrambled away by Itumeleng Khune.
Elyounoussi made the wasteful home team pay just before the break. As defenders backed off him, he cut across the penalty area, made room for himself and hit a left-foot shot past Khune for the deciding goal.
South Africa pushed forward for almost all the second half in front of around 35,000 at the former World Cup stadium. Rantie couldn't beat Almenning when one-on-one in the 54th and Rantie missed the follow-up.
Serero had another golden chance in the last 10 minutes but his shot was deflected away. A minute later Rantie fired high with Almenning finally out of position and beaten.
''The important thing is that we must learn from our mistakes and take it forward,'' new midfielder Phala, South Africa's best player, said. ''We created a lot of chances. It's better than nothing.''
South Africa plays Algeria in Johannesburg on Saturday before opening the African Cup at Soccer City on Jan. 19 against dangerous tournament first-timer Cape Verde, which eliminated Cameroon in qualifying.