USA and France arrived in New Zealand with big reputations but both have felt the full force of Japan's attacking prowess. After putting three past the Americans in their group opener, the Young Nadeshiko stepped up another gear on Sunday by smashing seven against Les Bleuettes, performances that have seen them installed alongside Germany as favourites to win the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup New Zealand 2008.
Making altogether quieter progress are England, who edged out Nigeria to put one foot in the last eight, while Group D rivals Brazil are all but out after going down to another defeat, this time against Korea Republic.
The rest of the world are now sitting up and taking notice of Japan after they reeled off another outstanding performance against France in Group C. What makes the thumping win even more impressive is the fact that Les Bleuettes were in confident mood after their impressive six-goal display against Paraguay on Thursday. In the end, had it not been for goalkeeper Laetitia Philippe, the demoralised French could have been looking at an even more humiliating scoreline against the rampant Asians.
Everything has been going according to plan for the Japanese since their arrival and if they continue in this vein they can expect to stay Down Under for the duration. In contrast, France coach Gerard Sergent will have to work wonders to restore some confidence to his squad for the must-win clash against USA.
The other games
Although USA coach Kazbek Tambi rang the changes after an opening-day defeat to Japan, the Americans were flirting with elimination when they trailed Paraguay at the break. The Stars and Stripes reacted in time, however, to move second in Group C, a Cris Mabel Flores own goal sparking a second-half comeback that was capped by Vicki DiMartino and Courtney Verloo. The fate of the North Americans now hangs on their final game against France.
Further south in Wellington, an efficient England outfit registered their second win in two games courtesy of a solitary Jessica Holbrook strike. Victims Nigeria will be ruing their misfortune after dominating the entire game, however. The English are the only side in the tournament yet to concede a goal. In the other game in the section Brazil finally managed to hit the back of the net when Raquel scored against Korea Republic. The problem was that the Canarinhas were already trailing 2-0 by that time and could not find a late equaliser. Kim Yong Ho's girls now know a win in their final game will take them through, while the South Americans require a minor miracle to survive.
In a Japanese display that was a joy to behold, Chinatsu Kira shone that little bit more brightly than the rest of her team-mates. The striker chipped in with three of her side's seven goals, and all in the space of just eight minutes, enabling her to lay claim to the fastest-ever hat-trick in any FIFA women's competition.