The Cameroonians needed a positive result after their opening match 4-2 defeat to Egypt, while Zambia were looking to build on their 3-0 success over Sudan in their first game.
But in a bizarre encounter in which the Zambians out-shot Cameroon 21-11, they simply made it too easy for the West Africans by, quite literally, handing goals to their opponents.
James Chamanga had the first shot on goal in the fifth minute, easily saved by Carlos Kameni, while at the other end a breakdown in communication between Kennedy Mweene and his defence almost put Joseph-Desire Job in with a clear shooting chance.
It would be a sign of things to come.
Kennedy Nketani’s silly foul on Achille Emana handed Cameroon a free-kick chance from 25-yards just before the half-hour mark and Geremi placed his shot perfectly to open the score.
Just three minutes later a long ball from the Cameroon defence was completely missed by Nketani and Billy Mwanza, bouncing through untouched to leave Job one-on-one with Mweene, and he finished easily.
Samuel Eto’o almost scored a spectacular volley five minutes before the break as he latched onto a ball over the top, but his effort dipped just over the bar.
Another defensive howler soon followed for Zambia however, as Alexandre Song’s through-ball was missed by Isaac Chansa and Mweene was again left exposed one-one-one with the striker, as Emana made no mistake with his finish.
Ian Bakala almost pulled one back deep into injury tine of the first half, but his header was well-saved by Kameni.
Zambia needed to regroup and they came looking for a way back into the match in the second half. Chansa, these days sporting dreadlocks, should have done better at the back post when he received the ball unmarked, but completely missed his kick.
But Cameroon were awarded a penalty when Eto’o’s free-kick struck the arm of Mwanza, and the Barcelona striker equaled the all-time record for the number of goals scored in Africa Cup of Nations final history – 14 – along with Laurent Pokou of the Ivory Coast. It was also his third of this tournament.
Chris Katongo was a lone shining light for the Zambians and he created space for himself on 68 minutes and fizzed in a powerful shot that flew just over the bar. He then rose high to head goalwards, but the ball landed on the top of the bar.
The Zambians luck did not change as a Clive Hachilensa header was cleared off the line, and then Jacob Mulenga could only toe the ball wide when well-placed. The latter did much better later on when his thunderous angled drive was brilliantly saved by Kameni.
But the defensive comedy act for Zambia continued on 82 minutes when Hachilensa managed to fluff an easy header back to his keeper, instead putting it past the glove man and right into the path of Job, who has never scored an easier goal in his career.
Chris Katongo finally got a consolation goal when he brilliantly met Joseph Musonda’s cross to slide the ball past Kameni, rich reward for him on the night.
Cameroon 5 (Geremi 28 Job 32, 82 Emana 44 Eto’o 65pen)
Zambia 1 (C Katongo 90)
Cameroon: 1 Idriss Carlos Kameni, 2 Gilles Binya (Alain Nkong 63), 4 Rigobert Song, 5 Timothee Atouba, 23 Andre Bikey, 7 Modeste M’Bami (Jean Makoun 68), 8 Geremi, 10 Achille Emana (Mohammadou Idrissou 76), 15 Alexandre Song, 9 Samuel Eto’o, 21 Joseph-Desire Job
Zambia: 16 Kennedy Mweene, 4 Joseph Musonda, 18 Billy Mwanza, 19 Clive Hachilensa, 3 Kennedy Nketani (Hichani Himonde 38), 10 Ian Bakala (William Njovu 81), 8 Isaac Chansa, 20 Felix Katongo, 2 Jacob Mulenga, 21 James Chamanga (Felix Nsunzu 64), 11 Christopher Katongo