Group F: Leaders ease on through
© Foto-net

Japan and Nigeria each beat Scotland and Costa Rica in their first two matches to qualify from this evenly matched group early, while the Tico's late comeback in their final match against the Scots ultimately was meaningless as they just missed out on one of the best third-place spots. The quick and skilful Japanese were somewhat fortunate to top the table on the goals-scored tie breaker as the Central Americans and Africans both struggled mightily with their finishing against them in 1-0 defeat and scoreless draw respectively.

How it finished
1. Japan, 7 points
2. Nigeria, 7 points
3. Costa Rica, 3 points
4. Scotland, 0 points

What's next
Japan - Czech Republic, 11 July, Victoria
Nigeria - Zambia, 12 July, Ottawa

What happened
Japan: Quick and well-prepared, the Japanese skirted around Scotland 3-1 in their opening contest and then coasted to the finish line. Their twin attacking full-backs of Atsuto Uchida and and Michihiro Yasuda gave width and pace to the side coming out of their own half, while Tsukasa Umesaki and Yosuke Kashiwagi added significant attacking punch from midfield.

Nigeria: Though they created an enormous number of opportunities in their three matches, taking 67 shots, they only managed to tally three times. However, Brown Ideye and Ezekiel Balal formed an impressive attacking partnership. They were also just one of just three teams not to allow a goal in the group stage, which they did using three different goalkeepers.

Costa Rica: Though they played evenly with the Nigerians and Japanese in their first two matches, both 1-0 set backs, the Ticos were very wasteful in front of goal, tallying only twice in the second half of their concluding match against the Scots. Though their attack lacked an edge, fluid playmaker Celso Borges caught the eye, as did goalkeeper Alfonso Quesada.

Scotland: The European runners-up were the group's whipping boys. Not only did they fail to get a point, they allowed in seven goals while scoring only two. Only Panama, who were thumped 6-0 by Argentina, allowed their net to be violated more times in the group stage. Out-of-sorts from the start, the Scots only managed to put nine shots on goal in the tournament.

Moments to savour
Costa Rica finally breaking their duck in the second half against Scotland and then scoring a dramatic winner through striker Jonathan McDonald with the last kick of the match.

• Sandwiched in between goals down to defensive blunder more than inventiveness, Tsukasa Umesaki's 20-yard strike that found the back of the Scottish net in Japan's 3-1 win.

• The third Nigerian goalkeeper to see action in the group, Ikechukwu Ezenwa made a trio of acrobatic saves in five second half minutes against Japan as the Eagles pushed forward looking to break the scoreless draw.

• The tremendous support in Victoria for all of the teams, particularly the Japanese and Nigerians. The African fans especially livened up Royal Athletic Park with their music and singing.

The numbers game
Costa Rica, who ended with three points from two goals scored and three against, were the only team at Canada 2007 not to advance after winning a match in their group. They fell just short of being one of the four best third-place teams only because of tie-breakers with Portugal (goal difference) and Brazil (goals scored).

The final word
Brown Ideye, Nigeria forward: "You will see more and more surprises from us. I think with the right attitude and focus, we can make history. You could see in each of our faces during the match yesterday, we want to make Nigeria proud. We were going all out. The determination is so great on this team to equal what was done in 2005."