USA took a giant leap towards the last eight this afternoon, but there was an undeniable element of déjà vu to their largely unconvincing, if ultimately deserved 4-1 win over Argentina at Moscow's Torpedo stadium.
It is, of course, a measure of the lofty standards that Tim Schulz's side have set that questions are being asked after two games from which they have claimed maximum points, but nothing could disguise the fact that this had been another lacklustre performance from a side who finished the match with 10 players after seeing Kelley O'Hara given her marching orders.
"Absolutely," was Schulz's immediate response to the question of whether his side are still underperforming. "And it's not just my standards they're not living up to - it's their own. They're as frustrated as I am with the lack of rhythm to our play, and the entire team knows we need to play to a higher level, which I'm delighted about. The only problem is that we need to raise our game very quickly."
Player of the Match Jessica Rostedt echoed her coach's sentiments, saying: "There's no doubt we're not playing to our potential at the moment. We can only hope that it clicks together soon."
Schulz had made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the Americans' performance against Congo DR , but nothing in his post-match demeanour had suggested that he would make such wholesale alterations to his line-up, which showed just four survivors from the 11 who had started against the Africans.
Among those to drop out were goalkeeper Joanna Haig and captain Stephanie Lopez, not to mention Amy Rodriguez and Player of the Match O'Hara, both of whom had found the net against the Congolese.
On the Argentina bench, meanwhile, coach Jose Carlos Borrello - who had more cause than his American counterpart to ring the changes - largely kept faith with the players who had crashed 5-0 to France , and was nearly rewarded as early as the eighth minute when captain Eva Gonzalez almost caught out Kelsey Davis with an audacious 45-yard free-kick.
Hope of an upset was to prove short-lived, however, because with 12 minutes played, the US took the lead with a beautifully worked goal, Rostedt's clinical finish the end product of a slick, one-touch move that could be traced back to the Americans' two centre-halves. At its climax, the goalscorer dummied the ball intelligently, continued her run to pick up a delightful outside-of-the-foot through pass from Danesha Adams and, with the keeper advancing, lifted the ball into the roof of the net with a flick of her right boot (1-0, 13').
Goalkeeping gaffe offers glimmer of hope
Argentina, determined to avoid the embarrassing fate that had befallen them against France, gritted their teeth and attempted to mount a comeback, but despite long-distance efforts from Gabriela Chavez and Maria Potassa, their efforts always looked likely to be in vain.
Sure enough, the writing was on the wall as early as the 38th minute, when the ever-lively Adams barged her way through in the right channel, knocked the ball over the advancing goalkeeper and, from an acute angle, volleyed coolly into the gaping net (2-0, 38').
Game over, or that at least was what we all thought until Davis, the US goalkeeper, handed Argentina a route back into this match, flapping at a speculative Gonzalez cross to present Mercedes Pereyra with an open target and the easiest goal she's ever likely to score (2-1, 53').
Hopes of an unlikely reprieve were, however, quickly extinguished. Within 10 minutes, the Americans had moved out of sight, their superior height and power at set pieces paid dividends as substitute Alexandra Long - on of the seven dropped following the first game - rose commandingly to bullet home an inswinging free-kick from Sarah Wagenhfuhr (3-1, 62').
Even when the US saw substitute O'Hara to a second bookable offence, Argentina could do nothing to make the most of their numerical advantage, and their near-inevitable elimination from Russia 2006 moved yet closer when Casey Nogueira rounded the keeper in injury time to complete the scoring (4-1, 90+1').
"We were much better than in our first game," reflected Argentina's Borrello afterwards. "I'm still not happy with the result, but we have one more game to play and I'm sure we'll improve further for that one."
Player of the Match: JESSICA ROSTEDT
"She showed good vision, terrific movement and composure, and created a number of chances for herself and others. No-one was really outstanding today but, if anyone stood out, it was her," Sylvie Beliveau (CAN), FIFA Technical Study Group .