Group C: Australia step up
© Foto-net

Norway finished unbeaten at the top of Group C with Ragnhild Gulbrandsen registering five goals - the best return of any player in the group stage - yet arguably the bigger story was Australia's success in advancing to the knockout rounds for the first time. They did so at the expense of a Canada side who lost out in the most dramatic circumstances to the Matildas. As for bottom-placed Ghana they returned home with a first-round record inferior to every team save for Argentina.

The final standings
1. Norway, 7 pts
2. Australia, 5 pts
3. Canada, 4 pts
4. Ghana, 0 pts

What's next
Norway-China PR, 23 September, Wuhan
Brazil-Australia, 23 September, Tianjin

The tale of the teams
Runners-up when the FIFA Women's World Cup was first staged in China, Bjarne Bernsten's Norway offered an impressive statement of intent this time round by topping their group with the tournament's second-highest goals tally. Their slick passing game is a departure from the Norwegian style of old and they are benefiting from a striker at the top of her game in Ragnhild Gulbrandsen, who scored in all three matches, including a hat-trick in the 7-2 win over Ghana that confirmed Norway as group winners.

Australia had taken just two points from nine previous FIFA Women's World Cup matches but, like the Socceroos in Germany last year, the Matildas have finally come of age on the world stage. With the playmaking skills of Colette McCallum and the pace and goal threat of Sarah Walsh and supersub Lisa De Vanna, Tom Sermanni's team built on a winning start against Ghana, their famed Aussie grit serving them well as they grabbed vital points against Norway and Canada with late goals.

Semi-finalists in 2003, the Canucks were let down by late goals that cost them a draw with Norway in their opening match and, crucially, a decisive win over Australia in their final fixture. Those dropped points undid the best efforts of Even Pellerud's close-knit group of players who were led magnificently by captain and centre-forward Christine Sinclair.

Statistically this was Ghana's poorest performance at the FIFA Women's World Cup as for the first time they failed to register a single point. Whereas in 2003 they defeated Australia, this time they crashed to a 4-1 defeat. The defeats only got heavier with their 4-0 reverse by Canada typical of their efforts: plenty of possession but they rarely threatened to score. However, coach Isaac Paha insists his young charges will have learned from the experience.

Moments to savour
Ragnhild Gulbrandsen completing her first-ever international hat-trick against Ghana and confirming that, after all her injury problems, she has returned more potent than ever.

Cheryl Salisbury's goal two minutes into added time in Chengdu, and the ecstatic Aussie celebrations which followed.

The roar from the crowd as Norway and Canada entered the Hangzhou Dragon Stadium for the group's first evening match. It set a noisy standard that the boisterous local fans maintained throughout.

Christine Sinclair's part-shocked, part-thrilled reaction to discovering that she had broken yet another Canadian scoring record: for FIFA Women's World Cup goals.

The sight of Solveig Gulbrandsen's one-year-old son Theodor and Mia, Camilla Huse's daughter (aged six) playing together in their matching Norway shirts at the team's training session.

The numbers game
- Ragnhild Gulbrandsen recorded goal number 500 in the history of the FIFA Women's World Cup when she netted Norway's second in their victory over Ghana.

The closing remarks
"We are a completely different proposition to the Australian sides you have seen at previous Women's World Cups. I don't think you see overnight improvement in football but there has been a gradual development over the last couple of years and that has been a combination of our young players maturing and going into the AFC and getting some tough matches." Tom Sermanni, Australia coach.