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June 7, 2002 - A first half poach and a second half penalty kick from Sweden’s Henrik Larsson were enough to make Nigeria the first team from Group F to be eliminated from the competition. Young star, Julius Aghahowa had given the Africans the lead in the 27th minute with a brilliant leaping header.

It was an open, exciting match with both teams creating many chances, but the Nigerians were unfortunate not to come away with a point. The ball hit the Scandinavian woodwork twice, and the Swedes also cleared the ball off the line twice. But, the hard-fighting Swedes gave no quarter and are still in with a shout to advance into the second round. The Nigerians will finish up their 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ against England on 12 June.

With Nigeria teetering on the brink of elimination, Sweden came out strong looking for an early goal to erase any thoughts Nigeria may have had about staying alive in the Group of Death. Their early pressure resulted in two good chances and three corner kicks in the opening four minutes.

Nigeria withstood the early onslaught, however, and were soon controlling the midfield. Niclas Alexandersson fouled Ifeanyi Udeze on the left side and the Nigerians were given their first good opportunity. But Jay Jay Okocha’s hard shot went high (15’).

After Freddie Ljungberg made a courageous run through a pair of defenders and into the penalty area to earn a corner, Johan Mjallby’s near-post header was saved off the line at the back post by Nigerian defender Justice Christopher (23’).

On the other end, Nigeria’s Julius Aghahowa opened the scoring with a flick header just inside the far post from Joseph Yobo’s right-wing cross (0:1, 27’). Aghahowa’s celebration was as exciting as the goal itself, as the 20-year-old forward strung together six handsprings and finished with a full flip near the corner flag.

Larsson levelled the score with a good individual effort when he managed to keep himself onside to receive Ljungberg’s through pass and then toe-poked the ball past Ike Shorunmu (1:1, 36’).

With the pace still back and forth, Nigeria tried to answer back. When it seemed Okocha’s shot from the left side would go wanting, Sweden defender Teddy Lucic’s clearing attempt was blocked by his own man, Mjallby, and crashed off the post (40’).

A glimpse at the importance of the match for Nigeria was evident when defender Taribo West, with blood splattered on his jersey, was stitched up just beyond the touch-line after suffering a cut above his left eye early in the second half.

Minutes later, West was back on the pitch, in time to slow down a Sweden counter-attack. But when the ball was played to an unmarked Larsson near the penalty spot, Udeze had little choice but to pull down the Celtic star. Larsson’s powerful penalty went through the outstretched hands of Shorunmu and Sweden were ahead (2:1, 62’).

West, clearly visible now with a bandage circling his head, was spotted at the edge of the goal box from the left side, but his downward header bounced wide of the near post (72’).

John Utaka and Yobo then went close within minutes of each other. First Utaka was sent into space on the left side. After rounding goalkeeper Magnus Hedman, his shot was cleared off the line by Mjallby (82’). Then from the top of the area, Yobo made a move to his left and ripped a low shot off the post to Hedman’s right (83’).

Arsenal star Nwankwo Kanu, who entered the game in the 66th minute despite not being fully fit, had the final chance for Nigeria when his 18-metre chip shot was swallowed up by Hedman (91’).