In the biggest surprise of the tournament so far, underdogs Korea DPR lead Group C with maximum points from two matches at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006.
Reigning champions Germany, Mexico and Switzerland trail the Asians, but excitement and drama are guaranteed when the group comes to a climax on Thursday, with all four teams still in the hunt for a quarter-final berth. Even the Swiss, currently propping up the section after two defeats, retain an outside chance of making the last eight.
With two straight wins under their belts, the Koreans hold pole position in Group C, and a draw would be enough to seal the Asian starlets' place in the quarter-finals. Qualifying for the tournament in Russia was in itself the team's greatest success to date, as the Koreans had previously never appeared at U-19 or U-20 finals, so the mood in the Korean camp is understandably relaxed ahead of the meeting with Mexico. "We'll play exactly the way we did in the first two games," coach Choe Kwang Sok explained.
The coach has guided his side to a shock 2-0 victory over Germany , followed by a comfortable 4-0 victory over Switzerland . "My players have gained valuable experience from taking on the two European teams. It was the first time we've played teams from this continent," Choe continued. "The experience will help my players sharpen their ability."
By contrast, any elation in the Mexican camp following an opening 4-2 victory over the Swiss evaporated like the morning dew in a crushing 9-1 defeat against rampaging Germany. The Mexicans must now recover from the dubious distinction of conceding the most goals in a single match in tournament history.
Coach Leonardo Cuellar will be working hard on his players' mental strength, as the shock will need to be overcome before the final group match. "It'll be very tough getting my players ready again emotionally," Cuellar acknowledged.
Glancing at the standings, the Mexicans retain a chance of claiming a qualifying berth through their own efforts, although there is a large hypothetical element to that calculation as they would need to beat Korea by at least six goals to be absolutely certain of making the quarter-finals. Any other result would leave them at the mercy of Germany's meeting with Switzerland. Should the holders win, they would pip the Mexicans to the post with a superior goal difference.
The reigning world champions occupy a promising-looking position as fate remains in their own hands: victory over Switzerland would guarantee a quarter-final berth. The side coached by Maren Meinert convincingly overcame the shock of their opening day debacle against the Koreans, shaken out of any lingering complacency by the defeat itself and a few choice words from the boss ahead of their second fixture against Mexico.
Whatever Meinert said clearly worked as Germany tore into the bewildered North Americans, Anna Blasse helping herself to a hat-trick as the Europeans brushed their opponents aside. "Winning 1-0 would not have been enough to recover from that opening defeat," the coach explained, "so we went out there looking to score as many as possible against Mexico. That's restored our confidence ahead of the final match."
Meinert's opposite number Claudio Taddei can hardly be satisfied with his side's progress at the event to date, as the Swiss are almost certainly destined to pack for home after a 4-2 defeat to Mexico and a 4-0 reverse against Korea.
Taddei and his team could theoretically still qualify for the last eight, although that would require a minor miracle : Switzerland would need to beat Germany by seven clear goals and hope that Korea triumph over Mexico. Given the reality of the situation, the Swiss coach preferred to concentrate on the facts. "We know full well we're already out," he said frankly. "It's unfortunate, but that's how it is. We've conceded too many goals."
The Swiss are now aiming to bow out with honour against neighbouring Germany. "We'll give it our best shot," Taddei remarked. "We were a lot better in our second much, especially in the first half, and we need to pick up where we left off there."
It all adds up to an exciting conclusion in Group C.