Group A: Brazil and Russia scrape through
In an interview with FIFA.com midway through the first round, Brazil's samba girls were in no doubt as to who would emerge victorious from Group A.
"Favourite Brazil!" they smiled, and it turned out they were right. The South Americans did indeed come top of the group, qualifying for the quarter-finals along with the hosts, Russia, who finished runners-up.
Australia and New Zealand took the long flight home, but they will have taken a fair amount of pride and confidence from their performances, with the Young Matildas in particular having cause to feel aggrieved at their early exit.
1. Brazil, 5 pts
As it transpired, Brazil's path to the top of Group A was not as clear cut as they would have liked. They began the tournament with a 0-0 draw against Russia , and ended their group campaign with a similar score against New Zealand, which was just enough to keep them in first place. Coach Jorge Barcelos' team only really showed what they were made of against Australia , when Fabiana and Francielle (from the penalty spot) scored Brazil's only goals of the tournament to date.
"Everyone always expects Brazil to play attractive football," explained their pragmatic coach, "but results are what count at a world championship. We won our group and that's all that matters. Let me tell you, I'm also looking for some better football from my team, and I know that they're capable of it."
2. Russia, 5 pts
Things were just as tight for the other big guns in Group A. With the home fans spurring them on, great things were expected of host nation Russia. In the end, though, they too seemed content just to scrape through into the knockout phase.
Elena Danilova, the golden girl of Russian football, has been curiously quiet up until now. The scorer of seven goals at the recent UEFA U-19 European Championship in Switzerland, where she picked up the tournament top scorer award , has still yet to open her account here on home soil.
Despite not firing on all cylinders, the hosts have at least provided some nail-biting moments. Against New Zealand, the result was in doubt until the 93rd minute when Svetlana Akimova popped up with the winner. Victory meant that a draw in their final group match against Australia would be enough to see Russia through to the quarter-final as runners-up.
Again, though, the home team's nerves seemed to betray them, as the Kiwis took the game to the home side, clawing back an undeserved 1-0 deficit and only being denied all three points by some desperate Russian defending, not to mention their own wasteful finishing. The hosts will need to step up their game if they are to get past China PR in their quarter-final.
3. Australia, 4 pts
Despite the fact that the two Antipodean teams were knocked out, they both have plenty to be proud of. The Aussies got off to the better start, beating their neighbours 3-0 on the opening day to secure continental bragging rights.
However, in their second match, against Brazil, some glorious chances went a-begging and, at the other end, Brazil were considerably more deadly. "With Fabiana, Brazil had the match-winner in their ranks," explained coach Alistair Edwards after the game. And so it all came down to the last group match against the hosts, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
Again, Australia dominated, carving out chance after chance but, again, they were left to rue their own profilgacy in front of goal as Russia snatched the point they needed to take them through into the quarter-finals.
Afterwards, the Young Matildas impressive captain, Sally Shipard - who played through the entire competition with a fractured foot - choked back the tears as she spoke to FIFA.com.
"It's really hard to take," she said. "We go home when I don't think there has been a game at this competition that we haven't deserved to win. As for all the missed chances, I don't know what happened there. This is a young team and maybe some of the girls just aren't used to playing under the international spotlight.
"But this tournament has been great, I've loved every minutes. We've only just arrived in Moscow, our hotel is beautiful, and now we're going home. But at least we showed the world how Australia play, and I thought Collette McCallum was magnificent for us throughout the whole tournament."
4 New Zealand, 1 pt
The talk coming from the New Zealand camp is of a similarly disappointed, yet upbeat mood . After starting off with a heavy defeat against arch-rivals Australia, they truly showed what they were made of against Russia, only to concede a winner deep into injury time.
"For such a small footballing nation, we really punched above our weight here," said proud coach John Herdman. "The girls proved that they belong on the international stage."
The Kiwis' first point came from an unexpected draw in the final match against Brazil, and they can leave the tournament safe in the knowledge that they have gained in international experience. "That's the main thing for us", continued Herdman. "The girls will really benefit from their time here in Russia. The future looks bright for New Zealand football."