Both Group B's quarter-final berths remain firmly up for grabs as we enter the final round of matches, but while all four teams are still theoretically in with a chance of progressing, the Finns concede that it's now effectively a three-way battle between the sides above them.

China currently lead on six points from old foes Canada, while Nigeria trail the North Americans only on goal difference ahead of their decisive clash against Finland, currently languishing at the foot of the table without a point to their name.

CanadaChina PR
Moscow (Torpedo), 23 August, 19:00 local time

The beaten finalists from the tournament's previous editions go head-to-head in a repeat of  a memorable last-eight clash at Thailand 2004 , perhaps best remembered for Canada goalkeeper Stacey Van Boxmeer being sent off in the very first minute of a match China went on to win 3-1.

Both teams show survivors from that dramatic tussle, the Canucks in current keeper Stephanie Labbe - an early substitute that night - Sophie Scmidt, Aysha Jamani, Amanda Cicchini and  Jodi-Ann Robinson , and their Asian conquerors in the likes of Luo Xiaoxu and Zhang Yanru.

Ma Xiaoxu, meanwhile, who had only just turned 16, watched her side advance to the semis from the bench that night, but the smart money would be on China's talismanic captain playing a considerably more active and influential role this time around. Much hype had accompanied the Dalian Shide striker coming into this tournament, but the evidence so far has fully justified every complimentary word spoken and written about a player whose influence on her team has, thus far at least, been beyond compare.

The two Player of the Match awards she has collected as many games speak for themselves, as does a running tally of three goals that has already established Ma atop  the competition's scoring charts , a positioned in which she fully intends staying for the duration of the tournament.

"I definitely want to be top scorer here in Russia," she told "But more important than that is that I help the team go all the way to the final again."

The likelihood, given China's and her own impressive showings thus far, is that this dual target should prove attainable, yet even their clinical, comprehensive dismantling of Nigeria wasn't sufficient to draw unreserved praise from coach Shang Ruihua.

"My team gave a very disciplined performance," he said, "particularly Ma and Lou (Xiaoxu). But I am not satisfied with my midfield players, who are not showing enough skill on the ball at the moment. We need more from them."

He may be a difficult man to please, but Shang will doubtless be encouraged by his side's recent successes on Canadian soil, where they beat their North American rivals twice in friendly matches to strengthen their historical dominance of this fixture.

Nevertheless, while Ian Bridge has made no secret of his admiration for the Steel Rosebuds, lauding them as "one of the top two or three (teams in the world)", the Canucks coach goes into this match buoyed considerably by his side's  thoroughly deserved 2-0 win over Finland , and with the in-form Robinson confident of shaking off a niggling injury to take her place in his line-up. 

Finland v Nigeria
Shchelkovo (Podmoskovie), 23 August, 19:00 local time

Cynthia Uwak's injury time winner against the Canadians on the opening day could yet prove a decisive moment in Group B, but Nigeria's subsequent  3-0 defeat by China  has put a significant dent in their goals-against column and left them needing a resounding win over the Finns to make absolutely sure of a place in the last eight.

"There is hope," said their coach  Emmanuel Tetteh Okonkwo . "All we need to do is go back to the drawing board and make some amendments, but I'm really optimistic about our chances. We just need to play with clearer minds. Against China, the players were so anxious to score that they shot when they should have dribbled, and dribbled when they should have shot."

Regardless of the result, history will be made at Shchelkovo's Podmoskovie stadium as these nations meet for the first time at any level in the women's game, with Finland in particular entering uncharted waters, having never faced African opposition in their entire history.

Jarmo Matikainen, the Nordic side's amiable coach, is realistic enough to acknowledge that, though it remains arithmetically possible, his side will not reach the quarter-finals, although he did vow to "play our strongest team, and play to win" against the Nigerians.

Overwhelmed in the first half against Canada, the Finns should welcome back star striker  Linda Sallstrom  after her illness-enforced absence, but this boost is offset by the sad news that another of their star players, Essi Sainio, has been flown home after suffering a broken metatarsal in the 2-0 defeat.

"It's an old injury," explained Matikainen. "It had kept her out of the latter part of the season for her club in Germany, and although she spent four weeks in a training camp with no reaction, there is always this risk with these kind of injuries. I feel very sad for her because it's possible she could be out for quite a long time."