Zambian keeper Kennedy Mweene scored one of the great penalties as the holders scrambled a lucky draw against Nigeria
A game of two penalties, then: Mikel John Obi's risible miss, and Kennedy Mweene's spectacular swish. Mweene points to the heavens, Andy Murray style, at the final whistle. He'd be better thanking the referee. The Nigerians, meanwhile, trudge off looking pensive, to say the least. This group is going to the wire. Final word to Simon McMahon: "A smokin' penalty at the fag end of this match. Barely a cigarette paper between them. There's no subliminal messages in this MBM though, is there?"
90 min +2: Zambia will be made up with this point, second best as they've been for the majority of the match. Nigeria don't know what's hit them.
90 min: There will be four added minutes of this.
89 min: That stunning penalty brings to mind this wee tap-in by Kevin Pressman. Goalkeepers taking penalties, huh? I'm voting for Mweene over the erstwhile Wednesday stopper, but only because of the Zambian's majestically casual demeanour as he waited, hands on hips, to take it; there's barely a cigarette paper between them though.
87 min: Uche replaces Musa.
A terrible decision to award the spot kick, but never mind that. This is, arguably, the greatest penalty ever taken. Mweene, the Zambian keeper, takes it, and lashes a totally nerveless effort right into the top-right corner, postage-stamp stuff. I guarantee you will never ever see a better penalty than that.
84 min: Mayuka is standing on the edge of the Nigerian area, down the left. He falls to his knees. Onazi is standing behind him, sort of in the same area, and for some reason the referee points to the spot! Totally ridiculous.
81 min: What a chance that's just been spurned by Zambia. Kalaba springs the offside trap down the left. He hangs around for an age when he really should shoot, then rolls the ball into the centre for Mbesuma, who sidefoots lamely at the keeper. That was perhaps the weakest shot in the history of all major international football tournaments. Apart from ones featuring Scotland, of course. "Us Europeans need to get with it as far as nicknames are concerned," argues Simon McMahon, who is preaching to the converted round these parts. "As of now I propose that the Scottish football team should be known as the 'Philosophical Unicorns'. Then just watch them go." What about the Fusty Blazers? Or the Copper-Bottomed Bampots? Imagine the marketing possibilities for the SFA!
79 min: Moses is replaced by Ideye.
77 min: Mulenga has a whack from 25 yards. It's straight at Enyeama, who makes no fuss.
75 min: Nigeria swap Igiebor for Nwankwo.
73 min: And having said that, Chansa is substituted. Sakuwaha comes on. Meanwhile Mbola is booked for what I can only describe as "an incident", on account of not having seen what happened.
72 min: Chansa no chancer! He dinks a lovely ball down the inside left to release Mayuka into the area down the inside left. Mulenga should score, he's got time to guide the ball past the outrushing Enyeama. But he whacks the ball straight at the keeper. Very poor.
71 min: Mbesuma spins through 180 degrees and hammers a shot goalwards from nigh on 30 yards. I say goalwards, it went a good 20 feet wide. Still, a new approach and some fresh ideas, and all that.
68 min: Musa is awarded a very harsh yellow card for little more than going up for a high ball. I'm not sure he's even touched Ogude, the chap also challenging. In fact, that might just be the worst refereeing decision of all time.
66 min: A double change for the struggling holders, and not before time. Lungu and Katongo are hooked, with Mulenga and Mbesuma coming on in their stead.
63 min: Sinkala is booked for putting in a reducer on Emenike. Zambia are getting very frustrated. A minute or so back, they swept upfield nicely, putting together a few neat passing triangles, but then the whole thing was crudely interrupted by Moses, who brushed Lungu off the ball with the utmost disdain. It was Zambia's half in microcosm; Nigeria are totally dominant at the moment.
60 min: Emenike is on heat. He bamboozles three green shirts as he powers down the inside-right channel, but can't quite get his shot away upon reaching the edge of the box.
59 min: Lungu makes good down the right, but his cross into the Nigerian box is coolly headed back to his own keeper by Onazi. This isn't much of an immediate response by the holders, whose grip on the trophy won't be loosened by defeat, though it certainly doesn't help.
This had been coming. And when it arrived, it was pretty simple. Mikel powerfully wins the ball in the middle of the Zambian half, and rolls an immediate ball down the inside-left channel to Emenike, who takes one touch inside, then drives a low shot into the bottom left. Nigeria are deservedly in the lead; they've been magnificent since the break.
56 min: Emenike, who is really putting himself about now, wins a high ball under pressure from three green shirts, turns on the edge of the area, and dinks a clever shot which beats Mweene and only just floats wide of the left-hand post.
53 min: Lungu goes on a dash down the left, but his long cross is utterly bereft of direction. The crowd are, to coin a phrase, gie'in it laldie with the old vuvuzelas at the moment. They sound great and, appropriately for Burns Night, the drone sounds not totally unlike a room full of very drunk people attempting to learn the bagpipes. The bagpipes, then.
51 min: Zambia have hardly touched the ball in this half so far, other than to clear it from the edge of their area and hoof it into space in the Nigerian half. "I know smoking is bad for you and that the Guardian does not recommend it,," writes SimBUY TABSon McMaSMOKE FAGShon, "but that photo is just soooooo cool. I mean, Garrincha. What a guy. Wasn't he born in Leicester?" Yes, and Diesel Park West were from Rio.
48 min: Musa rips down the inside-right channel, and looks to bury a shot in the bottom left. It's dragged wide left, and although a decent effort on its own merits, Emenike was free in the centre, and a low cross would surely have given Nigeria the lead.
This half has got to be better. It's got to be.
No1 (in a series of 1): Garrincha
Moses, romping down the inside left, looks to curl one into the top left. It's blocked. Zambia scamper upfield, three on two, but waste the opportunity, Chansa sending a low cross from the right straight into the hands of Enyeama. And that's that. Both teams wander off the pitch, but only one team look content enough with the way things are going. Oh John Obi! "As a Nigerian, I've been obliged to watch this match away from my cozy PC den and with the extended family," writes Mustapha Garba. "And I am currently enduring some bemused glares because I'm suppressing laughter every time the commentator calls out the Zambian player Chansa's name. Chansa. I couldn't convincingly make that up."
45 min: This half's petering out a wee bit.
42 min: With Emenike looking busy down the middle, Sunzu sticks out a telescopic leg to intercept a pass heading the Nigerian striker's way. A crucial interception, as he'd be tearing clear down the inside-left channel otherwise. "In any list of the famous born in Leicester, you must include
Joe Orton," opines Gary Naylor, "not least for his magnificent defacing of library books in the pre-photoshop age." I also forgot to mention Daniel Lambert, the most comfortably upholstered man in England. He didn't even drink any booze! Imagine being that well cushioned, yet totally off the pop. Poor guy!
38 min: Katongo drops a shoulder down the left, then belts a low effort goalwards. But he kicks ball and ground at the same time, Mikel style, and there's no power there. But all of a sudden, Zambia are coming back into this.
35 min: Oboabona is booked for a blatant bodycheck on Kalaba, who was looking to tear up the centre of the pitch. From the resulting free kick, which is looped straight into the area, Katongo gets eyebrows to the ball, but can't get any power on the effort, and Nigeria survive. Nigeria have been the better team, and will have the hot heat if they find themselves going in at the break a goal down. Especially after missing that penalty.
33 min: Igiebor bursts down the right into space, but his shot's deflected out for a corner. Mweene - whose surname is pronounced like, and therefore brings to mind, wannabe bongo repressor, erstwhile Football League chairman and all-round Tory & Unionist clown Brian Mawhinney - comes a good 12 yards out to claim the set piece. Very brave keeping, through a throng of men.
30 min: Musu tries to bust clear down the left, but only manages to shin the ball out of play for a goal kick.
29 min: Both teams are knocking the ball around the middle of the park a lot, without committing too many men forward. It's as though they're both in cold shock at the sheer awfulness of Mikel's penalty kick.
26 min: Nigeria are gifted a penalty, Nkausu clumsily clipping both feet from under Musa, the Nigerian with his back to goal at the right-hand corner of the area. Mikel steps up to take it, and hits a woeful effort, mishitting the ball straight into the ground and watching in horror as it pings off the base of the left-hand post. He topped that. If you played that on a golf course, you couldn't complain if the secretary ran out of the clubhouse and marched you off the course.
24 min: A fancy backflick by Chansa sends Mbola into a bit of space down the left. Mbola suffers a rush of blood and tries to recreate Paul Konchesky's goal from the 2006 FA Cup final. He doesn't have the luck of Konckesky - instead of the ball flying into the net, it whizzes into the stand - but then he's not weighed down by being Paul Konchesky, so it's swings and roundabouts.
22 min: Kalaba, on the right, reaches the edge of the area, opens his body up, and curls a deliciously inviting cross into the area. Katongo is rocking back on his heels at the time, and a half-chance is passed up.
19 min: And here come Nigeria again, who are suddenly looking very dangerous, pushing forward as one. Moses and Oboabona ping a one-two down the inside-left channel, the former then nearly sending Moses clear, ten yards from goal. But the final pass doesn't quite stick.
18 min: Now it's Nigeria's turn to show up front. Moses skedaddles down the left. It looks like he's run the ball out of play for a goal kick, but somehow gets a toe to the ball to keep it alive, then cuts back from the byline and pulls it back for Mikel. Mikel dinks a cross towards Emenike at the far post, but it's too high and the move peters out.
16 min: Without delay, here's the first instalment of the all-round improvement! Nkausu rakes a delicious crossfield right-to-left through ball towards Chansa, cutting in from the left-hand edge of the area. Chansa's in space, takes one touch, and lashes a shot just wide left of the goal from a tight-ish angle. You could argue he might have done better, but you'd be driving a hard bargain.
15 min: Kalaba tears down the left, then suddenly checks back to leave Onazi floundering. He curls in a low cross, with men in the box waiting, but it can't clear the first man. All-round improvement, please!
12 min: Musa hoicks a cross-cum-shot over the bar from the right-hand edge of the Zambian box. Not as bad as Chansa's effort a couple of minutes ago, but not much better either. The pitch isn't helping, mind: it's like a teenager's face.
11 min: Nigeria are concentrating most of their efforts down their left wing, and another sortie down that flank nearly comes off, Mikel stroking a lovely ball down the line, Echiejile then running it out of play. Like the tournament itself, this game hasn't taken off yet. But like the tournament itself, there's plenty of time.
9 min: Nigeria came out of the blocks quickly, but it's Zambia who are enjoying the lion's share at the moment. And this is much better, for fans of phonetic fun: Chansa is in acres down the right, and in an attempt to cross, arrows an aimless and very strange ball miles over the crossbar, Jonny Wilkinson style. Oop.
7 min: A free kick's sent into the Nigerian box from the left. I didn't see who sent it in, but that's just as well, it was hopelessly misdirected and there's no need to embarrass anybody. "The vuvuzela! So early-to-mid 2010s," harrumphs Ian Copestake, getting well ahead of himself in this infant decade by the looks of it.
4 min: Chansa - who I so dearly wished, with a surname like that, to have been laughably useless - sends a decent effort towards the Nigerian goal from distance. Enyeama gathers well.
2 min: The ball's bobbling around rather a lot, but then if it's smooth rollin' you're after, the world indoor bowls is currently being transmitted on BBC2. Mikel helps the ball on its uneasy journey down the left, then shanks a comedic cross into the stand behind the goal.
To the beautiful strains of the vuvuzela - stop moaning, for the love of God - the reigning champions get the ball rolling. And lose it within seconds. Musa is soon pelting down the left, and sends a low cross into the area which Sunzu is forced to skelp clear with feeling.
The teams are out! Zambia in green, Nigeria in white. "I have a soft spot for Nigeria, because my sister was born there, and because I have a very fond memory of a great afternoon spent in Paris in 1998 with Nigerian supporters celebrating a win over Bulgaria," begins Justin Kavanagh, who may or may not have spent the entirety of France '98 with a traffic cone on his head, being pushed around in a Carrefour trolly. "They are the African Holland, in a way, the hopeless cases of African football: always promising brilliance, but always ready to fall apart in acrimony or some row over unpaid bonuses or some such." Speaking of the Dutch, any old excuse...
Zambia: Mweene, Mbola, Sunzu, Musonda, Nkausa, Sinkala, Chansa, Kalaba, Lungu, Mayuka, Christopher Katongo. Subs: Munyao, Kasonde, Himoonda, Jacob Mulenga, Mbesuma, Felix Katongo, Chamanga, Chivuta, Njovu, Sakuwaha, Mukuka Mulenga.
Nigeria: Enyeama, Omeruo, Oboabona, Echiejile, Mikel, Onazi, Ogude, Igiebor, Musa, Emenike, Moses. Subs: Ejide, Yobo, Obiorah, Egwueke, Ideye, Gabriel, Uche, Uzoenyi, Mba, Oshaniwa, Agbim.
Referee: Gehad Grisha (Egypt)
It's not totally taken off yet, this Cup of Nations, has it? Still, plenty of time yet, and this could be the very match to light the touchpaper: the holders Zambia against the much-fancied and much-improved Nigerians.
Or to be more succinct: the Copper Bullets versus the Super Eagles. African football teams have a much better handle on their handles, yes? Three Lions? Nope. Die Mannschaft? Oh please. A Seleção? I don't think ção! But the Copper Bullets and the Super Eagles: *now* we're talking. Everyone else needs to up their game, basically, and in double-quick time to boot.
Anyway, this could be - please let it be - a cracker. Zambia, who could forget, won the thing last year, in the most completely non-scriptable manner imaginable, a few hundred yards from the very spot their 1993 team perished in an air disaster. They've got pretty much the same side as last year's victors, which should in theory be a boon, though they did stutter in their first game this time round against ten-man minnows Ethiopia. None of the Zambians landed a big-money move after their win last year, incidentally, with the exception of striker Emmanuel Mayuka who joined Southampton, though defender Stoppila Sunzu is hotly tipped for a move from TP Mazembe of the DR Congo to either Reading or Arsenal.
Nigeria, on the other hand, are very much on the up, a young, experimental, pacy and tricksy team packed with local-based players as well as European big-club stars such as Spartak Moscow forward Emmanuel Emenike, Lazio midfielder Ogenyi 'Eddy' Onazi, Chelsea pair Victor Moses and Mikel John Obi, and
West Brom's Peter Odemwingie Villarreal striker Ikechukwu Uche. This could be a rare old battle today, you know.
TP Mazembe, incidentally, used to be known as Englebert. Englebert. Sad to say they were named after a Belgian tyre manufacturer - Oscar Englebert, for the record - rather than Leicester's most famous son (sorry Gary, Kasabian and Gok) Arnold George Dorsey.
But this is all by the by. Kick off is at 5pm local time, which is 3pm in the British money. Copper Bullets! Super Eagles! It is on!