2010 FIFA World Cup™ hosts South Africa and fellow qualifiers Korea DPR drew 0-0 Thursday in a hastily arranged warm-up match ahead of the global tournament this June and July.
The Koreans flew from their Spanish base for the game in Germany between the lowest ranked teams of the 32 qualifiers for the first world finals to be hosted by Africa.
The goalless outcome was no surprise as South Africa, who lacked unavailable Europe-based stars like midfielders Steven Pienaar of Everton and captain Aaron Mokoena of Portsmouth, have struggled to score. Bafana Bafana (The Boys) managed just one goal in a home draw with minnows Namibia last month and it took a sizzling Siphiwe Tshabalala drive to force a similar result away to Paraguay later in March.
South Africa created most of the first half chances in perfect spring conditions before a crowd of just 600 with strikers Surprise Moriri and Katlego Mphela troubling goalkeeper Ri Myung Guk. Midfielder Ji Yun Nam had the best chance to end the goal drought after half-time with a long range effort that flew into the side netting with goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune beaten.
This was a good test as it is crucial that my players face teams who have qualified for the World Cup. We need games like this to develop our rhythm.
The FIFA World Cup hosts introduced 32-year-old Siyabonga Nomvete on the hour mark for his first national team appearance since 2007, but the Johannesburg-based striker failed to break the deadlock.
"This was a good test as it is crucial that my players face teams who have qualified for the World Cup. We need games like this to develop our rhythm," stressed Brazil-born South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. "It was our first international since the end of March and North Korea were difficult opponents who played very defensively. We created some chances but did not take them."
South Africa will face Asian opposition again next Wednesday when they meet China PR at the home of Offenbach Kickers in their final international before returning home from a three-week Germany camp. Bafana are set to complete their build-up with fixtures against Colombia on May 27 and Denmark on 5 June at Soccer City, a 90,000-seat stadium on the outskirts of Soweto that stages the opener and final.
Brazil-born coach Carlos Parreira has reportedly been angry with the quality and quantity of opposition and is said to have personally intervened to try and woo a football superpower to Johannesburg. But the 67-year-old mastermind behind the 1994 Brazil FIFA World Cup-winning team had to concede defeat with countries like Brazil and England finalising their pre-tournament schedule long before South Africa acted.
Parreira wants to avoid becoming the first coach of a FIFA World Cup host nation not to reach the second round since the tournament was first staged 80 years ago with all the competing nations arriving in Uruguay by sea. South Africa are the bookmakers' outsiders behind Group A favourites France, and Mexico and Uruguay, but home advantage and passionate backing from fans blowing vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) could trigger upsets.
North Korea, given no chance against five-time champions Brazil, Portugal and the Ivorians in Group G, sprung one of the greatest shocks in World Cup history when they defeated Italy in England 44 years ago. They launched their preparations last year in France with a draw against Congo and they have also played Zambia, Mali, Qatar, Iran, Venezuela and Mexico with Paraguay and Greece lined up for friendlies next month.