Having shared the points in their opening day clash , Russia and Brazil both secured victories in their second matches, leaving them level on points at the top of Group A going into the final round of games.
The South Americans defeated Australia without being at their best, while the tournament hosts only managed to snatch victory in the dying seconds against the Kiwis. On Wednesday, Brazil will be aiming to make it three defeats out of three for the New Zealanders, while Russia will battle it out with the Young Matildas for a place in the next round.
Australia went down 2-0 to the Auriverdes last Sunday, but the result could have been very different had forwards Sasha McDonnell and Leena Khamis made the most of gilt-edged chances in the first half. As it was, the Alistair Edwards' team let Brazil off the hook, allowing them to seize the initiative with two goals of their own, the first from the penalty spot and the second on the counterattack, giving them all three points.
"It was an even game, but luck deserted us in the final third, while they made the most of their chances," said Australia captain Sally Shipard . "We did everything right to get ourselves into scoring positions, but we lacked composure in front of goal," agreed Khamis.
Going into the crunch third game, Russia lead the Aussies by a single point and need only a draw to progress, while nothing less than a win will do for the Young Matildas - barring an unexpected favour from their Antipodean neighbours. However, host nation coach Valentin Grishin says he will not settle for a draw: "We will be playing to win, that goes without saying. Australia and New Zealand play with an almost identical style, but the Aussies have more quality players."
The Russians will be without Olga Petrova, who is still recovering from an injury sustained in the first match. There are also fitness concerns over fellow midfielders Nadezhda Kharchenko and Oxana Titova, and defender Alexandra Gomozova.
The hosts will, though, be buoyed by their first-half display against the Kiwis, although the history books suggest that the Aussies should have the edge. The Young Matildas prevailed in each of their last group games at the previous two FIFA World Championships, while at Thailand 2004 , Russia went down 2-0 to Korea Republic at this stage of the competition, still managing to just scrape through.
Brazil have played within themselves thus far, but that did not prevent them from securing a 2-0 victory over Australia to go top of Group A on goal difference. The three points were secured courtesy of Francielle's spot kick and a second goal from Fabiana, scored on the break.
"We had to work very hard, as the Australians were very tough to break down," said Fabiana. "But now we need to look ahead and think about the next game."
Brazil need just a draw to progress to the last eight, where they would face China PR, Canada or Nigeria. New Zealand, having lost their first two games, can no longer qualify, but they remain hopeful of long-term success. "The game against Brazil will be our last in this competition, but this won't be our last World Championship," vowed Kiwi coach John Herdman.
Brazil have huge international experience behind them and have never once failed to make it to the knockout stage of any of the world championships at youth level. For the Kiwis, it will be a case of playing for national pride and demonstrating the kind of gritty resolve that took them to within a minute of earning an honourable draw against the host nation.