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World Cup
28 June 1998 Saint-Denis - Stade de France
Nigeria Denmark
Underdogs Denmark, inspired by the marvellous Laudrup brothers, produced one of the shock results of France 98 to deservedly beat Nigeria 4-1 in the Stade de France, St Denis and so book their place in the quarter-finals. Two early goals from Peter Moller and Brian Laudrup stunned the Super Eagles, and further strikes by Ebbe Sand and Thomas Helveg sandwiched Tijani Babangida's consolation effort, as the unfancied Danes turned on the style against the odds-on favourites. The 70,000 crowd in this magnificent purpose-built stadium, witnessed a match that was the perfect advert for the World Cup, as the two contrasting styles of the Africans and Scandinavians produced a wonderful spectacle played in a great spirit, with five goals, splendid skills and end-to-end entertainment. The result disappointingly sees the exit of the colourful Nigerians who have graced France 98, and in Augustine Okocha possessed one of the great stars of the competion, whilst the Danes' 'prize' is a date with champions Brazil in Nantes on Friday 3 July at 9.00pm. As in all their previous group matches Nigeria started slowly and soon found themselves a goal behind when Moller's excellent 18-yard shot curled beyond Peter Rufai after just three minutes. The expected immediate African response failed to materialise, and it was the Scandinavians again who doubled their tally on 12 minutes when Brian Laudrup rolled in the rebound after Rufai had parried Moller's 30-yard free-kick. Bo Johansson's decision to play Moller had already paid dividends with a goal and an assist, and his selection was apparently down to the fact that the big striker had previously given Nigerian defender, Uche, a tough time when the two had crossed swords before in Danish football. Rather than panic, the Africans, who are super confident in their arrogant ability, began to play their way back into the match, with Okocha central to everything good that was created. First, the little genius with the dyed-orange hair, delivered the perfect cross after amazing skills, but Nwanko Kanu's 30th-minute header was a little too high, and then Okocha himself whistled three wonderful efforts narrowly wide as half-time approached. After the break Nigeria needed to score early if they were to have any chance of saving this match, however, it was Denmark who increased their lead when Ebbe Sand, on as a 59th minute substitute for Moller, scored just 24 seconds after his introduction. Michael Laudrup flipped a clever throughball over the Nigerian defence and Sand nodded forward before firing home a wonderful half-volley with his second touch. Apart from a couple of weak efforts from the disappointing Victor Ikpeba, Nigeria were sadly lacking up front, and it was no surprise when Bora Milutinovic brought on Rasheed Yekini for Kanu on 65 minutes in an attempt to add some muscle to the attack. Denmark, though, who had been quite superb so far in this match, with a resolute show of defending and swift, effective forward play, appeared capable of scoring at will. Therefore it was no real shock when Helveg made it 4-0 after 76 minutes following a mistake by Rufai in the Nigerian goal. Just 30 seconds later, at last the Africans had something to celebrate when Babangida volleyed home, to give the scoreline some respectability, and for the remaining 13 minutes it was thrilling end-to-end action with chances going begging in both penalty areas. The final whistle signalled the end of France 98 for the Super Eagles of Nigeria who have been a credit to their country, gracing the world stage, and a lot of neutrals will be sorry to say "au revoir" to the Africans. Meanwhile, the Danes have demonstrated that they are a very capable side, possessing, in Peter Schmeichel, arguably the best 'keeper in the world, and calling upon the almost telepathic talents of the Laudrup brothers.

(1-4) Babangida (78). Okocha's pass found Finidi George on the right who did well to shake off the attentions of two defenders before crossing deep to the far post, where the substitute was waiting to strike home a low right-footed volley that beat Peter Schmeichel just inside his left-hand post from eight yards.

(0-1) Moller (3). Jorgensen played in Michael Laudrup down the right of the Nigerian defence, who then cut a pass back to the big striker on the edge of the area, and he struck a superb first-time shot with the outside of his left foot which curled just inside Peter Rufai's left-hand post from 18 yards.

(0-2) Laudrup, B (12). Michael Laudrup feigned to take a free-kick but instead backheeled the ball into the path of Moller who struck a viciously hit 30-yarder, and when 'keeper Rufai could only parry the shot, which had moved through the air, Brian Laudrup reacted the quickest to side-foot home the loose ball right-footed from seven yards.

(0-3) Sand (59). Michael Laudrup flipped a delightful pass forward into the run of the substitute striker, who nodded the bouncing ball into his stride on the edge of the box, before firing home a cracking right-footed half-volley across Rufai and into the bottom right-hand corner from 14 yards.

(0-4) Helveg (76). Jorgensen's ambitious shot from the right was spilled by Rufai at his near post, and Sand picked up the rebound on the by-line to set up Jorgensen again, who this time opted to square the ball for Helveg to lash a right-footed shot high into the Nigerian net from eight yards.

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