Pulses could well be set racing in Azerbaijan on Sunday as the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2012 group stage concludes with an array of high-stakes encounters. The situation in Group D is particularly tense, with only Uruguay already eliminated and the section's other three teams within a point of each other. The Uruguayans meet Germany, while China PR face Ghana.
In Group C, Japan have yet to book their progress to the quarter-finals despite collecting six points from two games, and they need at least a draw against Mexico to be sure of advancing. Meanwhile, Brazil will be anxious to overcome a New Zealand side with an outside chance of going through, despite having lost both their previous encounters.
Having swept aside newcomers Uruguay 5-0 last time out, the Black Maidens are now intent on toppling another team new to the tournament. China PR are not nicknamed the Steel Roses for nothing, though, and the Asian challengers remain undefeated so far at Azerbaijan 2012, having caught the eye during their maiden campaign.
Ghana will surely look to their superior experience to prevail, boasting six players who travelled to Trinidad & Tobago 2010 (Ellen Coleman, Ivy Kolli, Regina Antwi, Rasheda Abdul-Rahman, Sherifatu Sumaila and Priscilla Okyere), but recent experience suggests they could well be up against it. After all, Asian teams have beaten their African counterparts the last three times sides from the two continents have crossed paths at this level.
Germany have never failed to reach the knockout phase at a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and they will be confident of keeping that run going in Azerbaijan. The European hopefuls need just a draw to seal their berth in the last eight and will be tackling a Uruguay team yet to pick up a point and already destined for elimination.
Japan are another side with a perfect record of surviving the group stage and they will also be optimistic about respecting that tradition when they face Mexico. The spectators at Shafa Stadium can expect a festival of attacking football too, given that every meeting between these rivals at a FIFA women's tournament has produced at least four goals.
Player to watch
Uruguay may already be out, but won't want to leave Azerbaijan 2012 without a goal to their name in the nation's first ever FIFA women's tournament. So keep at eye out for Yamila Badell, scorer of nine in qualifying, as she has proved capable of finding the net when Las Charrúas need it most.
345 – The number of minutes since New Zealand last found the net at a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, their most recent goal coming in a 3-1 loss to Spain at Trinidad & Tobago 2010. They will have to be at their inspired best to end that drought against Brazil, and may need to make up for lost time by scoring more than once.
"I watched China PR's last two games. We're on a similar level to them, but I think we have the tools to beat them and get the result we need to book our ticket to the quarter-finals," Mas-Ud Dramani, Ghana coach.
The schedule (all local time)
Japan-Mexico (Baku, Shafa Stadium, 14.00)
New Zealand-Brazil (Baku, 8 km Stadium, 14.00)
Germany-Uruguay (Lankaran, Lankaran Stadium, 17.00)
China PR-Ghana (Baku, 8 km Stadium, 17.00)