After Germany had provided a statement of their intent on Wednesday, it was the turn of USA, France and Brazil to underline their pre-tournament billing on Day 3 of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup New Zealand 2008. As it was, this proved to be a day of surprises Down Under as the goals rained down, with Japan and England claiming unexpected wins over the CONCACAF champions and South American runners-up respectively.
Only France managed to justify their reputation, sweeping Paraguay aside thanks largely to some ruthless finishing from Pauline Crammer. In the clash of the dark horses, meanwhile, a solid Nigeria side blunted Korea Republic's speedy build-up play to record a 2-1 win.
Firm favourites going into this Group C encounter at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium, USA crashed to an historic defeat as unfancied Japan fought back twice in the game of the tournament to date. The Americans got off to the perfect start when Vicky DiMartino put them ahead after only three minutes and although the elusive Mana Iwabuchi restored parity for the Young Nadeshiko, Kristie Mewis fired USA back in front just after the break.
Natsumi Kameoka's 35-yard piledriver pulled Japan level again before Kei Yoshioka conjured up a delightful third for the impressive Asian runners-up. Conscious that they were on the brink of recording the first-ever win by a Japanese team over their American counterparts in any category of women's football, the girls in blue clung on to their lead in determined fashion to gain three valuable points and make a little piece of history.
The other games
Danielle Carter: a name the Brazilians will not forget in a hurry. The scorer of two goals in England's 3-0 win over the young Canarinhas, the English forward was the star act in her side's virtuoso performance. The South Americans lacked fortune as well as poise, losing two players through injury on a day to forget. In the other Group D meeting, Nigeria took just 22 seconds to impose themselves against Korea Republic when Soo Adekwagh chipped them ahead. Forced to chase the game, the Asians fell further behind on the hour mark before pulling a goal back in the closing minutes.
In the battle of the red, white and blue flags, the French tricolor was flying high after Gerard Sergent's girls made short work of Paraguay with a handsome 6-2 win. Pauline Crammer scored a hat-trick to show the way for Les Bleuettes, who look set for a lengthy stay in New Zealand.
Pauline Crammer (FRA)
The top scorer in New Zealand so far and the first player to score a hat-trick in a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup match, the Frenchwoman has already made quite a name for herself after just one match. Opening her account with a fine finish from Marina Makanza's incisive pass, Les Bleuettes' talented striker then scored a superb solo goal and stroked a penalty into the top corner to prove she has the killer instinct necessary to flourish at the highest level.
What they said
"I think we can definitely still win this tournament. The team is still optimistic and everyone is ready to pull through the next two games and make sure we're in the quarter-finals," Courtney Verloo, USA striker.