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   June 7, 2002 | 1310 IST



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Sweden put Nigeria out

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Stephen Wood

Striker Henrik Larsson scored twice as Sweden came from a goal down to beat World Cup group F rivals Nigeria 2-1 on Friday and eliminate the African side from the tournament.

Nigeria, who lost their opening match 1-0 to Argentina, were celebrating when Julius Aghahowa headed them into a 27th minute lead and lit up the stage with his trademark series of back flips.

But Larsson stole his thunder with an equaliser after 35 minutes before winning and converting a 62nd-minute penalty which lifted Sweden to the top of the group on four points after a highly entertaining game.

Their lead may be short-lived, though, as Argentina face England in Sapporo later on Friday.

Julius Aghahowa does a series of back flips after putting Nigeria ahead.Nigeria, who reached the second round at the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, could have salvaged a point midway through the second half when Taribo West headed wide from close range and Joseph Yobo's meaty long-range shot struck the post late on.

Having taken just one point from their opening 1-1 draw with England and with tournament favourites Argentina still to play on June 12, Sweden were under some pressure.

But Larsson and defender Olof Mellberg had a sight of goal in the first two minutes before the first genuine chance.

Fredrik Ljungberg's mazy run after 20 minutes tested goalkeeper Ike Shoronmu and, from the resulting corner, Johan Mjallby's goalbound header was cleared off the line by Justice Christopher.

Although Nigeria's delightful skills had been throwing Sweden this way and that, the Super Eagles' breakthrough -- against the run of play -- was very direct.

Larsson scores from the penalty spot to give Sweden the match-winner.Yobo motored down the right flank and provided the perfect cross for Aghahowa, who nipped in front of keeper Magnus Hedman to head home.

Larsson levelled 10 minutes before halftime as he sidestepped two defenders and calmly beat Shoronmu from close range, but Sweden's defence was suddenly vulnerable.

Eight minutes before the break, they survived a scare when Teddy Lucic's clearance hit team mate Mjallby and the ball rebounded off the post.

Although the excitement waned in the second half, Larsson maintained his threat.

After seemingly getting little protection from referee Rene Ortube, he finally won the decisive penalty under a challenge from Ifeanyi Udeze. The striker stepped up to convert the spot kick himself despite Shoronmu's valiant effort.

Saudi Arabia are the only other team eliminated from the World Cup so far.

Henrik Larsson scored a goal in each half to give Sweden a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in group F in the football World Cup on Friday.

The victory kept the Swedes in the race for a berth in the next round. They have four points after today's win, having drawn against England in their opening match.

For Nigeria, it was their second defeat, having been beaten 0-1 by Argentina, and cost them a place in the second round.

The teams were level 1-1 at half-time.

Julius Aghahowa nipped in front of keeper Magnus Hedman after 27 minutes to head home a Joseph Yobo cross and put Nigeria into the lead before celebrating in style with his trademark series of back flips.

But 10 minutes before the break Henrik Larsson levelled for Sweden, side-stepping two Nigeria defenders in the area before calmly poking a right foot shot past keeper Ike Shoronmu from close range.

The Super Eagles came agonisingly close to retaking the lead after 37 minutes, when Teddy Lucic's clearance hit team mate Johan Mjallby and the ball rebounded off Sweden's post.

The Super Eagles came agonisingly close to retaking the lead after 37 minutes, when Teddy Lucic's clearance hit team mate Johan Mjallby and the ball rebounded off Sweden's post.

On resumption in the second session, Larsson made it 2-1 for Sweden, slotting home a penalty.

Nigeria pressed hard for a reply to that goal but just failed to get the ball between the posts.

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