All eyes were on Brazil in Group D of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™, with A Seleção making clear their intention of finally bringing the coveted Trophy to South America for the first time. Marta and Co hardly convinced in their first match, but the Brazilians gradually picked up their performances to demonstrate why they remain among the favourites for the title.
Norway, another side tipped to reach the latter stages of the competition, surprisingly failed to make it beyond the first hurdle, allowing Australia to claim the second available quarter-final berth. Tom Sermanni's Matildas showed a unique determination to win and deservedly booked their place in the last eight.
A look back
As soon as the draw for the first round of Germany 2011 was made, Brazil were singled out as hot favourites to finish top of Group D. Norway were widely expected to follow them into the knockout stages, but each struggled to find their feet as the tournament began. China 2007 runners-up Brazil did manage a hard-fought victory over Australia in their opening fixture, but there was little of the samba style which had earned them top billing. Meanwhile Norway stumbled past a surprisingly strong Equatorial Guinea 1-0.
Brazil's performance in their second group match was much improved, with FIFA World Player Marta almost single-handedly leading her side to a 3-0 win against Norway. Those three points secured the South Americans' place in the last eight, but dealt a heavy blow to their Scandinavian rivals' chances of progression. Australia pulled off a narrow 3-2 win against Equatorial Guinea, thus keeping their chances of a spot in the quarter-finals alive and condemning the valiant Africans to an early exit.
With Brazil already guaranteed a place in the knockout stages, Australia and Norway went head-to-head to decide who would join the favourites in the next round. The tension was immense and an intriguing encounter ensued, with Norway going all out for the win against an Australian side requiring just a point to progress. Ultimately the Matildas were the ones celebrating following a 2-1 victory that left Norway lamenting their first-ever failure to reach the knockout stages of a FIFA Women's World Cup.
Though FIFA Women's World Cup debutants Equatorial Guinea bowed out of Germany 2011 without a single point, the Africans certainly made a lasting impression on the biggest stage. Marcello Frigerio's side earned positive reviews from experts and fans alike with their quite literally colourful displays. Midfielder Anonman's 'cornrow' hairstyle, for example, changed from bright green at the start of the tournament to red by the end. The 22-year-old was not the only one making a fashion statement either – her colleagues also shone out on the pitch with their orange, yellow, blue, green, white and red boots.
Marta may have taken a game to settle into the tournament, but the 25-year-old soon showed why she is considered the best in the world. The No10 netted twice against Norway, drawing her level with Michelle Akers on 12 in the all-time FIFA Women's World Cup scoring charts. Only Birgit Prinz has scored more on the biggest stage (14). Marta has now scored more goals (three) against Norway at FIFA Women's World Cups than against any other opponent.
The group in numbers
7- Brazil's Cristiane has scored seven goals at FIFA Women's World Cups, with all of them coming in the second half of games between the 47th and 56th minute.
"Some people are saying the way we defend is out of date, but we're solid, we keep it tight, and we have players and strikers who are fantastic on the break. Marta is so obviously focused on Brazil winning this World Cup!" Brazil coach Kleiton Lima