That was a duel between Zambia and Nigeria. Two equally matched opponents facing each other in the Mbombela Stadium. Each team intent on gaining that certain satisfaction. The Super Eagles wanted to cut down the Champions. The Chipolopolos needed to show they were Champions. The game had everything. A woeful penalty miss, an historic penalty scored by a goalkeeper and controversial adjudications. Those can easily be described, but this game also had a bit of the neutron collider experiment about it. There were X’s and O’s moving in all sorts of directions, each trying to burst through and establish hegemony. The tension was tight. In the earlier, one-sided game, 10-man Burkina Faso (after their goalkeeper was sent off) easily beat Ethiopia 4-0 and went top of the group.
So the pressure was on for the Zambians and Nigerians who had both drawn their first group matches. Midway through the first half, Davies Nkausu stubbed the heel of gifted Nigerian Amed Musa. Musa fell gloriously to the ground. It was not simulation, but it was a modern penalty. Obi Mikel pulled rank, stepped up and predictably scuffed the kick tamely wide. The Nigerian Captain was to make amends in the second half. Zambia’s Stoppilla Sunzu moved awkwardly out of his area. The aimless long ball was not his thing, so he slipped a short pass to Chisamba Lungu. The most composed of his team mates was in a pivotal place. What could go wrong? Lungu dribbled away with confidence. Too much confidence. Obi Mikel picked his pocket. Emmanuel Emenike ran on to Obi Mikel’s pass, cut inside, and fired ruthlessly back across the goal and into the net. Nigeria deserved their lead. Zambia were stunned. Three Chipolopolo substitutes were introduced. The salvage operation began. Collins Mbesuma to Mukuka Mulenga to Isaac Chansa to Rainford Kabala. This was the sweetest move. It deserved to be a goal, but Vincent Enyeama was quick and slick and smothered Kabala’s shot. Only five minutes remained when Emmanuel Mayuka got goal side of Eddy Onazi. There seemed little danger. There was a tussle. Mayuka went down. Penalty! It was not a penalty for 180 million Nigerians and millions more neutrals, but the referee saw Onazi briefly hook and trap Mayuka’s arm and that was enough for him. Zambia’s goal keeper Kennedy Mweene placed the penalty high in the top corner, pointed up to the ‘Most High’ and was mobbed by his team mates. It was Mweene’s moment and one of the most memorable in the history of the game. Later in the post match press conference, Mweene nonchalantly admitted to practicing saving and scoring penalties every day.