On a dramatic final day of group stage fixtures at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2010, fans in Bochum and Bielefeld can look forward to plenty of exciting action with two quarter-final places still up for grabs in Groups C and D. Of the eight teams involved, only Korea Republic are assured of a place in the last eight, while Switzerland are the only nation no longer in with a chance of reaching the knockout stages.
What makes Wednesday's matches particularly interesting is that in both groups, the top two teams face each other. Somewhat surprisingly it is Nigeria and Mexico who are set to fight it out for top spot in Group C. Both must avoid defeat at all costs, as a victory for either England or Japan in the section's other match could see them slip out of the qualification berths. The situation is much the same in Group D, where defending champions USA need at least a point from their match against leaders Korea Republic to prevent third-placed Ghana from overtaking them with a win against Switzerland.
Few would have predicted that going into the final day of group fixtures, Korea Republic would have amassed more points than perceived title contenders USA. However, thanks to their quick passing football and spectacular attacking displays, the east Asians are still unbeaten at Germany 2010, while the reigning champions are playing catch-up with four points from their opening two games. One of the most intriguing battles out on the pitch will be between strikers Ji So-Yun and Sydney Leroux, who have five and four goals respectively after two games.
The other matches
In the other match in Group D, the permutations are clear. Ghana must win big against bottom side Switzerland in Bochum and hope that the USA lose against Korea Republic if they are to stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals. The Africans' goalscoring hopes rest firmly on the shoulders of Elizabeth Cudjoe, who has already struck twice in the tournament so far. Meanwhile the Swiss, whose star player Ramona Bachmann is struggling with a knock, are desperate to finish on a positive note after suffering two heavy defeats.
In Group C, two of the tournament's surprise packages go head to head for the right to progress into the last eight. Nigeria and Mexico are both unbeaten so far and will be aiming to once again impose their differing styles when their paths cross in Bochum. The Africans focus on power and pace, while Roberto Medina's Mexico boast an array of technically gifted young players. Nigeria's Desire Oparanozie and Renae Cuellar of Mexico are the ones to watch, having notched two goals each so far at the tournament.
At the same time, Japan and England meet in Bielefeld with both sides yet to show their true potential at Germany 2010. The Asians and the Europeans have managed just a point apiece and are now under intense pressure to perform on Wednesday. Only the winners stand a chance of snatching second place, and even then they must hope the match between Nigeria and Mexico produces a victor. The UEFA U-19 European Championship 2009 winners will need to keep fully focused at the back if they are to prevent Japanese playmaker Mana Iwabuchi from stealing the show.
0 - The number of FIFA U-20 Women's World Cups in which the USA have not reached the knockout stages as group winners. This fate could well befall the North Americans in Germany, if they fail to beat Korea Republic.
"I'm convinced that we'll reach the quarter-finals, as long as we play as a team," Zakiya Bywaters, USA winger