Brazil and China the big winners
THE DAY REPLAYED: There was drama aplenty on day three of Russia 2006 as New Zealand came within a minute of holding the hosts to a draw before finally losing 3-2. The win saw the hosts move joint-top of Group A alongside Brazil, who defeated Australia 2-0 in St Petersburg.
In Shchelkovo, meanwhile, Canada got off the mark after a brace by Jodi-Ann Robinson effectively paid to the hopes of Finland (2-0), while China made sure of a quarter-final berth with a comfortable win over Nigeria (3-0).
At the Petrovsky stadium, Australia looked the more enterprising side in the early exchanges and had two glorious chances to establish an early lead, both of which were spurned, with Sasha McDonnell and Leah Blayney the guilty parties.
Such wastefulness in front of goal was severly punished just before half-time when the opening goal fell to Brazil courtesy of a Francielle penalty, with goalkeeper Lydia Williams guessing right but still unable to get down in time. Forced to take the game to their opponents in the second half, Australia were finally seen off by a swift Brazil counter-attack. The move ended with Fabiana picking up an inch-perfect through ball in the box before coolly rounding the on-rushing Williams to calm the nerves of the Auriverde bench.
As all this was happening, further south in the Moscow suburb of Shchelkovo , Canada's Jodi-Ann Robinson was giving her side renewed hope of making the knockout phase. The Canucks were simply too strong for their Finnish opponents, who looked toothless without Linda Sallstrom, ruled out with a fever.
Such was the dominance of the North Americans that they had 14 shots on goal in the first half alone, while their opponents failed to muster a single noteworthy effort. The win keeps Canada firmly in the hunt for a quarter-final berth, while Finland's only hope lies in combining a high-scoring victory over Nigeria with Robinson and Co crashing to defeat against China PR in the final round of group games.
China secured their place in the last-eight after defeating Nigeria in what was very much a game of two halves. Lou Xiaoxu and Ma Xiaoxu looked to have secured the points for the Asian side with two great goals in the first half, but the Falconets came back strongly after the break, laying siege to Zhang Yanru's goal.
However, the good fortune that accompanied the African side in their opening game against Canada deserted them on this occasion as they failed to convert any of their 25 shots on goal. China, meanwhile, displayed no such profligacy, with in-form striker Ma once again grabbing the headlines - and the Player of the Match award - courtesy of scoring two and laying on the other in a 3-0 win.
Drama until the death
In the evening matches, tournament hosts Russia suffered an almighty scare in their Group A game with New Zealand. The European side took to the field determined to provide a victory to the people of St Petersburg before jetting to Moscow for their final group game against Australia next Wednesday.
Things began well enough, with an Anna Kozhnikova strike giving the hosts the lead on three minutes, and when the second - a precise volley from Elena Terekhova - went in 12 minutes later, it seemed as if the floodgates were about to open.
However, the Kiwis had other ideas and reduced the deficit before half-time when Kirsty Yallop's header from a corner came back off the post for Abby Erceg to fire home. The group of around 30 die-hard New Zealand fans who were watching from the stands loudly celebrated their country's first-ever goal at a women's world championship, and 10 minutes after the re-start they were cheering even louder as Emma Humphries threw the game wide open by netting the equaliser.
Nerves began to take hold of the Russian girls, who started to make uncharacteristic errors against the now-buoyant Kiwis. No one suffered more than star striker Elena Danilova, who, for the second game in succession, failed to find the target.
Nonetheless, Danilova stubbornly refused to give up and, after reaching the byline with a skilful dribble in the area, successfully cut the ball back for Svetlana Akimova to power home the winner deep into stoppage time. It was a cruel blow for the Antipodeans, who will have no more than pride to play for when they face Brazil in their final group game next Wednesday.