ATTERIDGEVILLE, South Africa (AFP) - Katlego Mphela scored on 76 minutes as World Cup hosts South Africa edged fellow qualifiers Denmark 1-0 in a warm-up on Saturday and stretched an unbeaten run to 12 games.
Nicknamed 'Killer' and linked to Birmingham City, the matchwinner pounced on a defence-splitting pass to fire the ball under the body of Stefan Andersen and settle a lively if overly cautious contest.
South Africa kick off the four-yearly tournament next Friday against Mexico at Soccer City in Johannesburg while Denmark face Netherlands -- 6-1 winners over Hungary also on Saturday -- three days later at the same stadium.
"This was a good result as we played with heart, skill and technique against experienced opponents 47 places above us on the FIFA rankings," said South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.
"We enter the World Cup with hope and confidence. I give credit to my boys who were sold a vision that could lead to glory three months ago and responded magnificently."
Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, who reached a half-century of caps for Bafana Bafana (The Boys), admitted: "It was not one of my best games as Christian Poulsen marked me very tight."
Scoring chances were scarce in a goalless first half with neither team able to stamp their authority in warm, clear autumn weather at a stadium renamed after former local star Lucas Moripe.
Parreira, a World Cup-winning coach with his native Brazil 16 years ago, kept the 4-2-3-1 formation that has helped his team remain unbeaten since he took control a second time last November.
Injuries ruled several Danes out of the third game between the countries, including Stoke City goalkeeper Thomas Soerensen and Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner.
Lone striker Mphela netted after 10 minutes but was clearly offside and when Denmark threatened well into the half, fit-again goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune came to the rescue.
As a cross to the far post fell invitingly for Teko Modise, his header was well off target while Liverpool defender Daniel Agger came much closer at the other end in a similar situation.
The only corner of the opening half came six minutes before half-time and its poor execution by Siphiwe Tshabalala reminded Parreira that set pieces are not the strongest suit in the Bafana armoury.
Caginess continued to rule as the second half progressed with goalmouth action rare and Khune not tested until midway through the period when he reacted quickly to hold a deflected Martin Joergensen shot.
Andersen was equally sharp soon after at the other end, rapidly changing direction to grasp a Tshabalala drive that lacked venom but took a heavy deflection.
Even a host of substitutions by both teams was not impacting on a game dominated by teams who retreated quickly and in numbers whenever trouble threatened.
It was going to take something special to break the deadlock and it came via the right boot of defensive midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane as his pass from the centre of the field set up Mphela.
Denmark had a change to level deep in stoppage time when substitute Mikkel Beckmann ghosted unmarked into the penalty area only to see his shot pushed away by Khune.
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - The Bafana Bafana bandwagon hits Pretoria Saturday with another sell-out crowd for the World Cup warm-up against Denmark and realistic prospects of an 11-match unbeaten run being extended.
It will be the final dress rehearsal for the host nation before they tackle formidable Group A adversaries Mexico next Friday when the curtain rises on the four-yearly international football showpiece.
Mexico must face a 90,000-plus crowd blowing plastic vuvuzela trumpets at Soccer City stadium on the southern outskirts of Johannesburg while Denmark are going to get off lightly as Lucas Moripe Stadium holds only 28,000 fans.
As South Africa stumbled from one loss to another last year under Brazilian coach Joel Santana, even complimentary VIP tickets to home fixtures were disparagingly declined.
Santana was fired after eight defeats in nine outings, Parreira came back for a second spell in charge of Bafana (Zulu for The Boys), and the ugly ducklings slowly but surely transformed into beautiful swans.
That is not to assume South Africa are about to sweep all before them come the June 11-July 11 tournament. A second round spot from a group also including France and Uruguay will be fantastic and a last-eight slot miraculous.
Colombia created worringly big gaps in the heart of the defence a couple of weeks ago without exploiting them fully and the host nation could do with a penalty-area predator like Uruguayan Diego Forlan.
Although Parreira says the performance is more important than the result against a Danish side 47 places above Bafana on the FIFA rankings, veteran striker Siyabonga Nomvete pinpoints the need for a victory.
"This is our last warm-up and we cannot afford to finish with a negative result," said the humble Durban-born footballer plucked from obscurity a few months ago after three years in the international wilderness.
Fellow striker Katlego Mphela struck a similar cord: "This is the last opportunity for Bafana to capture the hearts of all South Africans so we must go for the kill on Saturday."
South African footballers, notorious for creating pre-tournament bonus storms, have struck a deal with football officials which rewards wins and draws and there is the 125,000-dollar 'carrot' per goal when the team wins.
Denmark lost their first tune-up in South Africa 1-0 to the Australian Socceroos last Tuesday in a match where both teams struggled with the 1,800-metre altitude of a western Johannesburg suburb.
Coach Morten Olsen expects a big improvement from his attack: "To come away with a positive result we must do much better in front of goal. We had a lot of possession against Australia, but that does not matter in football."
While conceding Netherlands are favoured to top the Group E table, Olsen believes second place ahead of Cameroon and Japan is a realistic ambition that could set up a second-round showdown with defending champions Italy.