And then there were two.
Sunday's FIFA Women's World Cup final in Shanghai (CBC, 7:45 a.m. ET) pits defending champions Germany against first-time finalists Brazil in what is expected to be the highlight of the 32-game tournament.
The teams have played each other six times in the past with Germany holding a slight advantage with three wins, two draws and a loss in those meetings.
Who will win this time around?
Here's what our CBC Sports experts have to say:
HELEN STOUMBOS, Commentator, CBC Sports
Brazil may have been the surprise of the tournament for many, but having followed their World Cup road, I am not surprised.Brazil was due for a World Cup final having lost to the U.S. 2-1 in the Olympic gold-medal final in 2004.
In the past it has been the "powerful" teams that have dominated the women's game, which is why the U.S., Germany and Scandinavian countries have constantly been on top.This is why it is so exciting to see a team like Brazil, a flashy, entertaining squad progress to the finals.
What a final this will be with the strength and power of the Germans, taking on the flair of the Brazilians.And what a matchup it is — Germany leading the tournament in goals with 19 and Brazil a close second with 17.This final will also boast two of the best women's soccer players to have ever played the game. Birgit Prinz, the star for the German side with four goals, and Brazil's Marta with seven.
Will Brazil be able to break down the defence of the reigning champions, who have not let in a goal in this tournament?
Marta and her crew may just be too much to handle for the German side.
Prediction: I predict a 2-1 win for the South Americans. There is no doubt this will be a final that won't disappoint.
DICK HOWARD, Commentator, CBC Sports
It's show time in Shanghai. How do they match up?
Germany has a decided edge in goal. Nadine Angerer has yet to concede a goal after 450 minutes of play and her superb save in the closely contested quarter-final against North Korea came at a key moment in the game. Her opposite number Andreia is also a good shot stopper but is more vulnerable to crosses and does not have the presence of Angerer, who is still keeping the experienced Silke Rottenberg on the bench.
Both defences match up well and rely on the contributions of two experienced defenders, Kerstin Stegemann for Germany and Brazil's captain, Aline. One factor that might help the current World Champions is that Brazil has a tendency to concede free kicks around the penalty area. Birgit Prinz and company could exploit these set plays. Brazilian coach Jorge Barcellos is of the opinion that the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win the game.
Germany has a slight edge withits well-balanced midfield. Kerstin Garefrekes, Renate Lingor and Melanie Behringer, who is in doubt with an injury, have contributed eight goals and seven assists. They work well in both attack and defence along with the tireless Simone Laudehr. Brazil, on the other hand,is not as effective in the goal scoring department, instead relying on the hard work and unselfish play of Maycon, Ester and Daniela, along with the competitive Renata Costa.
It is up front where Brazil has a decided edge. The outstanding play of Marta with her seven goals and two assists has made her a definite candidate for player of the tournament. She is well supported by the speedy and talented Cristiane who has averaged a goal per game.Over 70per centof Brazil's 17 goals have come from this dynamic duo.
Germany can counter with the competition's all-time top scorer Birgit Prinz assisted by the opportunistic Sandra Smisek, who have combined for seven of Germany's 19 goals. Prinz, however, has had an indifferent tournament by her standards up to this point and coach Silvia Neid will be looking for a more significant contribution from the tall, strong striker in the final.
It has the potential to be one of the best-ever finals in the short history of the Women's World Cup. It will certainly be an interesting one with the different styles of play. Germany's physical and more direct play is a contrast to the speed, movement and technical skills of Marta and company. A lot will depend on the match officials, since there are competitive players on both sides.
Prediction: If Germany can control Marta,it will repeat as World Champions … if not look for a first-ever Women's World Champion from South America. Dick's pick … Germany 2-1.
SIGNA BUTLER, Editor, 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, CBCSports.ca
I'm not sure you could ask for a better final — the two best attacking and defensive teams of the tournament.But what makes this final unique is Germany and Brazil subscribe to completely different styles of play.
Germany, under the tutelage of former player Silvia Neid, employs a direct, possession-oriented game, while Brazil, under the guidance of Jorge Barcellos, plays a skilled, creative style of football.
Germany has a plethora of experience with half of its 2003 championship team returning, including its defensive core led by Kerstin Stegemann and Ariane Hingst.The team has yet to concede a goal in five games. Offensively, Germany leads the tournament with 19 goals thus far.The chemistry between star striker Birgit Prinz and her Frankfurt club teammates Renate Lingor, Sandra Smisek and Kerstin Garefrekes is perhaps only comparable to the bond Marta and Cristiane of Brazil share.
Brazil may not have the experience or depth of Germany, but it can lay claim to the title of most-skilled team in China. Not only do the South Americans have the best player in the world today in Marta, but they also have a cast of other talented footballers. It's a treat to watch these women charm crowds with their creative runs, dazzling dribbling and impeccable passing.
Defensively, neither team has truly been tested — this will bethe final exam.Germany may not have given up a goal as of yet, but it also hasn't played against a team as fast or dynamic as Brazil.On the other end, the South Americans haven't encountered a team as talented or disciplined as Germany.Brazil has shown it can crumble under pressure at this tournament.Australia nearly came back to beat the Brazilians, scoring the only two goals against the Samba Queens in China — one off a defensive turnover and the other off a set piece.
Though the squads are evenly matched in these ways, Germany holds the edge in a few intangible areas.
The Germans will be fresher.They enjoyed an extra day of rest and Neid was able to give a few players a break during Wednesday's semifinal (she used all three of her substitutions in the match, while Barcellos stuck with his starting 11 for the duration of Thursday's rout over the U.S.).
The second intangible is World Cup final experience.This will be Brazil's first championship game, while it will be Germany's third. To be fair, Brazil has some experience in big games — the 2004 Olympic final, for one.
The final intangible is momentum.I've never seen the Brazilians play as well as they did Thursday against the Americans.They were aggressive, creative and incredibly fast.They were so up for that game.After such an emotional win, can they refocus for the final?Beating the U.S. for the just the second time in 23 tries was almost like a final in itself.
Prediction: In the end, I think experience will be the difference.Germany over Brazil 3-2.