Good afternoon everybody and welcome to this afternoon's Group C Africa Cup of Nations ding-dong between table-toppers Burkina Faso and third place Zambia at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, on a pitch that's likely to be sand-saturated and largely grass free.
With second place Nigeria taking on Ethiopia at the at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium at the same time, needing a win to guarantee their progress to the quarter-finals, holders Zambia need to beat Burkino Faso if they are to join South Africa, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali and Ivory Coast in the last eight and avoid the stress of having to worry about the result Rustenburg going their way. Ethiopa can also qualify, but will need to beat Nigeria by a hatful to maintain their cigarette paper-slim hopes of making the knockout stages.
The must-win(ish) nature of today's match is less than ideal for Zambia, whose recipe for success is a mixture of superstition (manager Herve Renard's lucky white shirt) and the calm pragmatism that served them so well last year. However, according to Jonathan Wilson in South Africa, while the shirt is still working its magic, Zambia have looked far less assured in defence this year, a state of affairs that may not improve in a game where they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to go on the front foot against a lightning fast, free-scoring side.
With the goals of tournament top-scorer Alain Traore having catapulted Burkina Faso into the box-seat of Group C,, a draw this afternoon will seal their passage to the quarter-finals. A draw might also suffice for Zambia, but only if Nigeria and Ethiopia play out a lower scoring draw.
Should both games finish drawn with the same scoreline, fair play will dictate who proceeds. Zambia currently have the edge on that particular front, but it is obviously a situation that could change in the next couple of hours.