USA and France scrap for supremacy
The equation in Group D could scarcely be simpler. France and the United States have both won two games, while Argentina and DR Congo have lost two.
Already eliminated, the Africans and the South Americans will face each other in Saint Petersburg, while the Europeans and Americans will do battle for first place in Moscow. It is the Bluettes who have the slight advantage as, in the event of a draw, they would take first place on goal difference.
USA v France
Moscow (Dynamo), 24 August, 19:00 local time
A brand-new duel between the long-time dominant force in women's football, the USA, and a nation in France who are growing in strength and have twice been European runners-up in this category. With both sides having already qualified for the quarter-finals, only the establishment of the pecking order will be at stake.
Despite their two wins apiece, both teams would be the first to admit that they have shown shortcomings in their finishing and in build-up play. "We could have played better against Argentina , that's for sure," acknowledges the Americans' Danesha Adams. "We're gonna have to improve against the French as they're definitely a better team that the others.
France coach Stephane Pilard , meanwhile, admits: "We should have been able to coast home against the Congolese , but we lacked the guile to get past their defence. But at least it showed the girls that there's still a lot of work to do to reach the standard of the top teams."
Each coach doubtless has his own ideas on the best way to emerge victorious, but both sides are keen to emphasise the importance of concentrating on their own game rather than worrying about their opponents. "There's not a lot a coach can do if we don't play to the best of our ability. It's up to us to keep on fighting to the last," admits Adams frankly. "It's our problem, not the coach's."
Elodie Thomis, meanwhile, remembers meeting some of these very Americans with the senior side in an Algarve Cup match that ended in an emphatic 4-1 defeat. "That day, they put four goals past us and played very well," she recalled.
"It showed us just how strong the United States were and as the game went on, we realised that we still had a long way to go to reach their level. It helped bring us back down to earth, so there was at least a positive side. They are physically formidable, but in our own favour we have the technical ability, pace and tactical nous. I believe it's going to be a good game."
Allie Long also expects this first-ever meeting between the sides at U-20 level to offer an attractive contrast of styles. "I'm not that familiar with the way they play, but I know they're a very good team. Having said that, I have confidence in our players and I think we're in for an entertaining game."
As for US coach Tim Schulz, he knows his girls have not been on top form but remains hopeful. "We need to raise our standard of play. The girls know it and have been frustrated things as I have been with the lack of flow to our play, which kind of reassures me."
Argentina v DR Congo
St Petersburg, 24 August, 19:00 local time
Some might view this as a meaningless match, with both sides already eliminated, but each set of players are anxious to go out on a high.
The Congolese have enjoyed a successful tournament in so far as they have proven that their unexpected qualification was no fluke. However, they have been unable to avoid two narrow defeats. As for the Argentines, it will be a matter of pride for them to show that the nine goals conceded so far have been due to a lack of experience rather than talent.
"We've got nothing to lose or win, but we want to go out with our heads held high," said Poly Bonghanya , the charismatic Congolese coach. "Of course we'll be going for the win, but a draw would also satisfy us."
For Argentina's Jose Carlos Borrello , nothing but victory will do. "We want our first win at a World Championship," is his straightforward verdict. Consequently, the Argentine coach is likely to field his strongest 11. His Congolese counterpart, conversely, plans to rotate his squad. "We've got a lot of minor injuries," he revealed, "but in any case, I think it's fair to give a run-out to all those who haven't featured yet."
Borrello and his entire team are determined to show that the two defeats and particularly the nine goals conceded are proof of nothing but the naivety of an inexperienced side. "My players really want to show how good they can be and play as well as they did in qualifying." Nevertheless, he knows that it would be foolish to take the Congolese side lightly: "Congo are very strong and athletic."
Bonghanya is equally wary of the South Americans, whom he knows have not yet played to their full capabilities. "Argentina are a good side and I'm not paying too much attention to their results in the first two matches," he said. "They qualified from the South American Zone with style, which shows just how good they really are."