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Monday, June 29, 1998 Published at 01:57 GMT 02:57 UK


World: Africa

Old guard in charge

Nigerian goalkeeper Peter Rufai beaten by Denmark's first goal

The African challenge for the World Cup ended in a deluge of goals from Denmark in one of the most convincing victories of the tournament so far.

Nigeria's defeat, 4-1, at the the Stade de France north of Paris left the field clear for the nations from the traditional football strongholds of Europe and Latin America.

All the Asian teams had already been knocked out.

Danish coach Bo Johansson got his tactics and selection exactly right to put his team through to the quarter-finals for a crack at defending champions Brazil.

Johansson ignored Peter Moller throughout the group stage of the tournament but the powerful striker responded to being given a belated chance by making an immediate impact on proceedings.

Michael Laudrup picked Moller out with a perfect pass in the 3rd minute and he gave goalkeeper Peter Rufai no chance with a left-foot drive from 20 yards.

The Super Eagles were still coming to terms with that blow when Denmark were awarded a 12th minute free-kick just outside the box.

The ball was touched to Moller, who fired in another stinging left-footer. Rufai could not hold the shot and Brian Laudrup reacted fastest to slot home the loose ball.

Lanky Nwankwo Kanu beat the Danish offside trap as Nigeria sought a quick reply but hesitated long enough to allow Peter Schmeichel to race from his line and prevent him getting a telling strike on goal.

Captain Uche Okechukwu was just too high from a 28th minute corner but their chief threat came from midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha.

His twists and turns kept the Danish defence on their toes but his shooting did not live up to the promise of his approach play.

Johansson replaced the tiring Moller with Ebbe Sand in the 59th minute and it proved an inspired substitution as he collected a subtle Michael Laudrup chip, eluded Taribo West and fired home within 30 seconds of running onto the pitch.

The fourth came when Rufai failed to cling onto Martin Jorgensen's shot and the ball was eventually teed up for Thomas Helveg to strike into the roof of the net.

Nigeria's spirit remained despite the scoreline and Tijani Babangida volleyed home from Finidi George's excellent cross but it was no consolation after being outplayed in a game they had begun as firm favourites.





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