Football World Cup: Danes send Super Eagles plummeting

Nigeria 1 Babangida 77 Denmark 4 Moller 3, B Laudrup 12, Sand 59, Helveg 76 Att: 79,500

DENMARK, THE unfancied outsiders, crushed Nigeria's hopes of carrying the African challenge into the last eight of the World Cup with a thoroughly professional performance here last night.

The much-vaunted Nigerians sparkled on occasions, but they were found wanting in what should have been their finest hour and were picked apart ruthlessly by Michael Laudrup. At 34, the Danish captain may be past his prime, but he still had enough in his repertoire to steer Denmark into the quarter-finals for the first time, where they will meet Brazil in Nantes on Friday.

Nigeria came into the match under something of a cloud, with a possible Fifa investigation into their final Group D match against Paraguay which they lost 1-0, having rested six first-choice players, effectively ending Spain's hopes of qualifying ahead of Paraguay. They were back to full- strength of course last night, with Nwankwo Kanu, the Internazionale striker, given his first start since missing the qualifying campaign with a heart complaint.

The Danes came through unconvincingly behind France from Group C, but it was they who found their feet first in the cavernous national stadium. With the game only three minutes old Michael Laudrup found a surprising amount of space between Celestine Babayaro and Okechukwu Uche, and he was picked out expertly by Martin Jorgensen. The Danish captain checked his run and rolled the ball along the edge of the penalty area into the path of Peter Moller, who struck a first-time shot left-footed, low past Peter Rufai into the corner of the net.

Nigeria, who went out at the same stage four years ago after leading Italy with less than a minute remaining, took some time to recover their poise. Michael Laudrup was enjoying plenty of room in midfield and soon made Nigeria pay again for their negligence. Brought down just outside the area in a central position, his back-heeled free-kick was hit powerfully by Moller and Rufai did well to get hands to it, but he failed to hold on and Brian Laudrup won the race with Taribo West for the loose ball to put the Danes two up inside 12 minutes.

At last Nigeria responded with something like the form that made them the people's champions as well as the Olympic champions, and it was Kanu who provided the inspiration with a shot that Peter Schmeichel spilled. Alas for the Nigerians they had no one as alert as Brian Laudrup. Schmeichel had to be vigilant again soon afterwards, diving to claim the ball at Kanu's feet after a lovely through-ball from Jay-Jay Okocha, the Nigerians' playmaker, who was beginning to find his range.

As the first half wore on the breathtaking skills of the Nigerians began to dominate proceedings, particularly those of Kanu and Okocha. All that was lacking was the final touch as Kanu headed over after Okocha had beaten Soren Colding all ends up, and Okocha himself volleyed just wide. The closest they came was when Kanu and Finidi George combined to set up Okacha, who teased three defenders on the edge of the area before making room for the shot which curled just over Schmeichel's bar.

But the half ended with another Moller shot that required a good save from Rufai, and the Danes picked up where they left off after the break with Brian Laudrup's cross-shot leaving Rufai stranded before bouncing to safety off the top of the crossbar. Nigeria were enjoying plenty of possession but as Kanu began to fade as a threat, so Okacha became less effective and Denmark seized the moment to book their passage into the last eight.

Again Michel Laudrup was the architect. Picking the ball up 30 yards from goal there seemed to be little on for him but he manufactured a pass, scooping the ball up and through the Nigerian cover for Ebbe Sand. The substitute still had work to do but he controlled the ball well as it dropped, before stealing in between Uche and West to rifle his shot past the helpless Rufai.

There was more to come, as 14 minutes from time the Danes rubbed salt in the wound by adding a fourth after Rufai had failed to hold on to Jorgensen's shot. Sand nipped in and laid it back to Jorgensen, who picked out Thomas Helveg, and he made no mistake from close range.

All that remained from Nigeria Tijani Babangida's clonsolation effort, a beautifully struck far post volley, but not even the scorer was in the mood to celebrate.

NIGERIA (4-1-3-2): Rufai (Deportivo); Adepoju (Real Sociedad), Okechukwu (Fenerbahce), West (Internazionale), Babayaro (Chelsea); Oliseh (Ajax); Finidi (Real Betis), Okocha (Fenerbahce), Lawal (Roda); Kanu (Internazionale), Ikpeba (Monaco). Substitutes: Yekini (FC Zurich) for Kanu, 65; Babangida (Ajax) for Lawal, 73;

DENMARK (4-3-3): Schmeichel (Manchester United); Colding (Brondby), Rieper (Celtic), Hogh (Fenerbahce), Heintze (Bayern Leverkusen); Jorgensen (Udinese), Helveg (Udinese), A Nielsen (Tottenham); B Laudrup (Chelsea), Moller (PSV Eindhoven), M Laudrup (Ajax). : Substitutes: Sand for Moller, 59; Horst for B Laudrup, 78; Frandsen for M Laudrup, 84.

Referee: Urs Meier (Switzerland).

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital