Bafana Bafana take on Norway at the Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday night, for the second time in four years, in preparation for the 2013 Africa Cup of NationsBafana will be determined to get the year off to a winning start and build valuable momentum heading into the continental showpiece on the 19th of January.
Igesund will use tonight’s friendly to try and find the right partnerships before going into the 2013 Afcon tournament. Igesund’s 23-man squad possesses a good mixture of youth and experience and he will be hoping this mixture can gel together, when you consider the relatively short time he's had with the national team since replacing Pitso Mosimane.
Even though Norway have brought along a significantly weaker team they could still trouble South Africa. The Norwegians are currently ranked 24th in the world, way above South Africa’s dismal position of 87.
Dean Furman only arrived in South Africa on Sunday, so he is not expected to feature for Bafana Bafana in tonight’s friendly. The England based midfielder could play a pivotal part in Igesund's side and his addition to the 23-man AFCON squad has added valuable European experience, even if it is at lower division side Oldham.
On the injury front Igesund has been blessed with news that midfielder May Mahlangu has been given the green light to participate in tonight’s clash. In other news Thulani Serero and striker Katlego Mphela are recovering well. Serero is expected to be fully fit come the 19th of January. Mphela has been South Africa’s frontline striker for a number of years and Igesund will be counting on him to again show his value for the national side as he did in 2010.
Bernard Parker will pose South Africa’s biggest threat. The Kaizer Chiefs forward tops South Africa’s scoring charts with 9 goals in 16 games. Parker has been in great form for his club this season and Igesund will be hoping he can transfer that form into the national side.
For the friendlies against Bafana Bafana and Zambia respectively, Norway coach Egil Olsen has selected a squad comprised entirely of Scandinavian-based players. Olsen who is in his second spell as national team coach will tour Southern Africa with a relatively young squad. Since Olsen took over in 2009 he guided Norway to a third place finish in their Euro 2012 qualifying group, losing out to a playoff spot by the margin of goal difference. They accumulated 16 points in a tough group that consisted of Denmark and Portugal respectively.
Norway are currently second in their World Cup qualifying group, 3 points behind group leaders Switzerland. Norway will be confidant that they can book a place in Brazil 2014 if they can muster up a few strong performances leading into the final rounds of qualification. Drillos as they are known by their fans face Bafana Bafana on the back of a 2-0 victory against Hungary in November last year.
Norway lost on their last outing against South-Africa thanks to a late Siphiwe Tshabalala strike and will be looking to turn the tables tonight.
Norway have travelled to South Africa without the likes of Hangeland, Riise, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Nordtveit but will still pose a stellar test for the South Africans with what is a youthful side with a few old timers. Forward Erik Huseklepp will be a threat for the South-African defence. Huseklepp had stints with English clubs Portsmouth and Birmingham City and has been capped 30 times by Norway.
He scored the winning goal for Norway against Portugal in a Euro 2012 qualifying game and last scored for the team in a 4-1 defeat against Wales in November last year. The player most likely to join Huseklepp in attack is forward Tarik Elyounoussi, the Moroccan born striker who has excelled at international level scoring 5 times in 15 appearances for Norway.
Ruben Yttergård Jenssen will look to pull the strings in midfield for Norway. The previous Norway under-21 captain has accumulated over 150 caps for his club side at the tender age of 24 as well as 19 caps for the national side.
The clash against Norway will be Igesund’s 7th game in charge of the national side. Bafana have mustered up three wins and three losses under him, hoping that a European scalp will give the squad much needed confidence going into the Afcon.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Norway coach Egil Olsen successfully guided Norway to two successive World Cup finals in 1994 and 1998.
- Norway’s highest world ranking is 2nd. They achieved this ranking under Olsen in October 1993 and held that position for just under 2 years.
- Bafana Bafana midfielder Dean Furman is captain of English Football Club Oldham Athletic. He was appointed as captain of the club in 2011 at the tender age of 23.