Big names and bold newcomers shine

The stakes are set to rise at the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™ after a group stage that set the tone with some unforgettable moments. A total of 107 goals were scored across the six sections as the heavyweights laid down serious markers and several ambitious challengers proved their worth. looks back at the highlights from the opening round of action.

The favourites

Defending champions Japan* *look to be in promising shape after edging all three of their opening contests, with only Brazil posting a better record in the group phase. Both sides amassed maximum points to galvanise confidence ahead of the tests to come, and although the holders were guilty of a few wasteful moments, they have been in full control of their fixtures so far.

Fellow heavyweights USA have been in fine form too, even if they have yet to reach their peak. The North American giants are undoubtedly capable hitting even greater heights, especially as the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and Hope Solo all proved that they still have much to contribute. The Stars and Stripes will clearly settle for nothing less than the global trophy in Vancouver on 5 July.

European juggernauts Germany harbour a similar desire, and they signalled their potential with a 10-0 demolition of Côte d'Ivoire in their first outing. Silvia Neid's charges were then held by continental rivals Norway but dominated the encounter, before clinching top spot in Group B by sweeping Thailand aside. Having amassed 15 goals in three games, the European champions could not have made their title intentions more obvious.

As for France, they caught the eye by getting the better of England – but promptly slipped to defeat at the hands of Colombia. They thus had to wait until the final tranche of games in Group F to assert their authority, making light work of Mexico to finish first. Tired of watching other teams snaffle up all the silverware, Les Bleues have shown that they can turn on the style when it matters.

The surprises

Spare a thought for Cameroon, who have to live up to their Indomitable Lions tag every time they take the pitch. Not easy for the newcomers as they made their debut on the Women's World Cup stage, but the African side bared their teeth right from the start with a 6-0 success against Ecuador. They then resisted being tamed by champions Japan in a hard-fought 2-1 reverse, before finding their appetite again in the second half to edge Switzerland 2-1.

Elsewhere, Costa Rica put their faith in Amelia Valverde to oversee their efforts, and the 28-year-old coach – one year younger than key player Shirley Cruz – masterminded a promising campaign. Las Ticas recorded draws with both Spain and Korea Republic and came close to frustrating Brazil, but Valverde preferred to turn the spotlight on her players. "Costa Rica doesn't have an army, but we played with warriors," said the young tactician, after her team's final appearance.


The key moments**

Gone but not forgotten: Melissa Ortiz's world must have seemed like it was collapsing when she was ruled out of Canada 2015 due to injury just ten days ahead of the big kick-off. Her absence was a huge blow for Colombia as well, but her team-mates responded in perfect fashion when they scored their first ever goal at this level against Mexico – before displaying their absent colleague's shirt to the world's media as part of their celebration.

Taking responsibility: With just seconds remaining in Canada's opening match against China PR, the referee pointed to the penalty spot. The hosts had struggled to settle into any kind of rhythm in the opening 90 minutes, but this, suddenly, was their chance to get going. And who else to take it but Christine Sinclair? The legendary forward's air of confidence as she embarked on her run left little doubt as to the outcome, and Sinclair showed why she is held in such high regard as she buried the ball to clinch all three points.

No pity between newcomers: Switzerland may have been making their introductions at this level, but they made their presence felt in a 10-1 triumph against Ecuador – the highest scoring match in Women's World Cup history alongside Germany's 11-0 defeat of Argentina in 2007. Their punishing performance also featured the fastest hat-trick in the tournament's history, Fabienne Humm racking up a trio of goals in five minutes to leave fellow debutants Ecuador reeling. The South American side had started their bid determined to be remembered, but this was clearly not what they had in mind.

The match

Sweden 3-3 Nigeria, Group D, 8 June 2015, Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg

Drawn together in the 'group of death', Sweden and Nigeria knew there was little room for error as they locked horns in their first fixture. Many teams would have focused on staying tight at the back, but the watching world was served up a classic as both sides flexed their muscles. For Nigeria, Asisat Oshoala provided a lesson in calmness, while Ngozi Okobi excelled with a control and finish, and Francisca Ordega proved her talent for precision. Sweden, meanwhile, had Linda Sembrant to thank for finishing off a superb collective move, after Nilla Fischer had pounced with an opportunistic strike and the unfortunate Desire Oparanozie had put the ball in her own net.

The goal

Maren Mjelde has already left her mark on this World Cup thanks to a stunning free-kick. Her Norway side were taking on the might of Germany, but the midfielder made it look almost easy as she curled the ball over a seven-player wall and beyond former FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Nadine Angerer, her effort brushing the underside of the crossbar before nestling in the net. "She comes up with a free-kick like that once a year," commented Germany forward Alexandra Popp. Possibly so, but this one has been watched hundreds of thousands of times across the globe.

The stat

4 – Four of Asia's five Women's World Cup representatives will continue their bids in the last 16 after Australia, Japan, China PR and Korea Republic all survived the group stage. Never before has the continent sent a quartet of teams through to the knockout phase, and even Thailand – the odd team out – marked their debut appearance with a historic victory against Côte d'Ivoire.

The words

"It was your mum who put the ball in the net when it hit the post," England midfielder Alex Greenwood had a moving message for team-mate Fran Kirby after the forward's goal against Mexico, Kirby having lost her mother at the age of 14.