South Africa 0
Norway (1) 1
Titak Elyounounssi 41
Cape Town - There are still 10 days and, crucially, another 90 minutes of football left for coach Gordon Igesund to mould Bafana Bafana into a competitive unit before the opening match of the African Cup of Nations against Cape Verde.
Because on the evidence of Tuesday night’s dreadful performance against a young, spirited and well-organised Norway outfit, the hosts’ participation at continental show piece looks set to be a brief one.
The Scandinavian outfit exposed some of Bafana’s shortcomings, which were pretty much in all departments. However, the fact that the South Africans are still not looking like a team is probably the coach’s biggest concern.
The first half was especially terrible as far as the team’s cohesion is concern, as even club teammates couldn’t find each other with short passes.
Kaizer Chiefs mates Siphiwe Tshabalala and Reneilwe Letsholonyane’s one-twos seemed like it needed the assistance of a satellite navigation system, while other experience players like Kagisho Dikgacoi also struggled to find the open man.
Bafana, though, still had the better of the midfield encounters. But yet again, that age old South African problem of not taking chances in front of goal reared its ugly head.
And it was South Africa’s best striker of the last couple of years Katlego Mphela who bore the brunt of the crowd’s frustration when his touch and his normally deadly finishing let him down.
To be fair, the man they call “Killer” still looks very rusty after only recently coming back from a knee injury.
He also grabbed his hamstring after unleashing the first shot in anger in the match, when Letsholonyane fed him on his favourite right foot, only for the Norwegian goalkeeper Rune Jarstein to make a fine low save.
Mphela’s teammates were also guilty of blowing a few chances, especially the one in the 33rd minute when they tried to walk the ball into the net Barcelona-style, instead of taking a shot.
Bafana’s best player on the night, Platinum Stars winger Thuso Phala, was industrious down the right, and did what Tshabalala struggled to do down the left – get to the byline and cross.
His run the 36th minute set was brilliantly pushed away from the oncoming Mphela by Jarstein, while the shot-stopper also denied the Bafana No9’s header a few minutes later.
But Mphela’s greatest miss was actually a non-effort, after he got a brilliant pass from Lerato Chabangu, only for his first touch to let him down.
The Bafana Bafana defenders also looked hesitant at times during the opening stanza, as the Norwegians impressed with some neat moments in and around the penalty area.
And as per usual Bafana were punished for those lapses, as Norway caught the home side flat footed at the back, with Tarik Elyounoussi scoring through a plethora of defenders.
Igesund threw on his young brigade in the second half, which also saw the dangerous Phala see more of the ball. Tokelo Rantie, who replaced Mphela at halftime, and the brilliant Thulani Serero added that urgency that was missing in the first half, and they seemed to find a lot more cracks in the visitors’ defence that wasn’t previously there in the first half.
Rantie almost equalised in the 54th minute when he was released by Phala through the middle, but his shot was saved by Jarstein, and the resulting rebound from Phala blocked.
Phala also set up Serero 14 minutes later, but it took another brilliant and brave save by the reliable Jarstein to deny the former Ajax Cape Town star.