Bafana Bafana’s preparations for the 2013 African Cup of Nations gather pace tomorrow night when they host Norway at the Cape Town Stadium.
And coach Gordon Igesund – with a mandate to get South Africa to at least the semi-finals of the continental showpiece – has welcomed the visit of the European side as Bafana’s countdown to the tournament’s opening game against Cape Verde Islands ticks on.
Norway are ranked 24th in the Fifa rankings, way above Bafana who find themselves down in a lowly 87th place.
And even if Norway is perhaps not sending a full-strength team due to the match having international friendly status only, Igesund has stressed the key role the match will play in his side’s preparations.
“It is good to be playing Norway as part of the Afcon 2013 preparations because if you look at the style of play of both Morocco and Cape Verde, it is European-orientated,” Igesund said. “So this match will help a great deal.”
Igesund added that beating Norway would also be good for the team’s morale as he and his coaching team put the finishing touches to Bafana’s preparations.
Bafana have one more warm-up match – against Algeria in Soweto on Saturday – before the tournament opener against Cape Verde on 19 January.
“We need to gel and be ready for the tournament, which is the bigger picture,” he stressed.
Igesund also revealed that he has a “good headache” in terms of picking his starting team as the squad players have impressed in training.
And Bafana captain Bongani Khumalo said: “It is a great honour representing your country in such a prestigious tournament and competition for places is stiff because we all want to be in the starting line-up.
“We want to leave our mark as a new generation and we believe we have the ability to do that.”
Norway coach Egil Olsen has named an inexperienced squad with the majority of the players coming from Norwegian clubs.
Tarik Elyounoussi and Erik Huseklepp will be the dangermen for Bafana, with both strikers scoring in their last appearances for the team.
Norway’s last five fixtures have seen the Scandinavians record three wins, a draw and a loss while Bafana have won three and lost three during Igesund’s first six games.
Meanwhile, Dean Furman arrived in Cape Town yesterday to join up with Bafana after playing for Oldham in their 3-2 FA Cup victory over Nottingham Forest on Saturday. - Cape Argus