It was a day of opposites in the second round of Group B play, providing two dynamic matches that entertained in two very different ways.

Going into Friday's slate of matches, Japan topped the group after a methodical 2-1 win over last-placed New Zealand. In the other match-up, Mexico and England each shared one point after El Tri shocked a lackluster Three Lions side.

Group B also lays claim to four contrasting and unique soccer styles - all of which have been shown to be quite effective. These unique approaches helped ensure a wide open field. However, Friday's matches helped reveal the true contenders in the three-horse race for the second place in the group behind Japan.

The action kicked off in Leverkusen as Japan faced a Mexico team energized from its impressive opening match draw against England.

One of the biggest question marks hovering over Japan was its finish abilities. The side has become known for its possession-oriented, highly technical, free-flowing brand of soccer; one that has become the archetype in Asian women' soccer. Lately, Japan has matched style with substance, showing through in its all-time best No. 4 FIFA world ranking.

The team has done well to produce creative playmakers that can act as the conduit for such attractive soccer, but Japan has never been known for laying claim to clinical strikers.

As was proven in its efficient performance against New Zealand, that notion may be outdated.

Japan were utterly dominant throughout the entire match against Mexico and claimed a demonstrative 4-0 victory. It was arguably the most comprehensive defeat of the tournament so far.

Stellar central midfielder and team veteran Homare Sawa bagged a rare World Cup hat trick while Shinobu Ohno scored Japan's second goal.

The team was in complete control and deprived Mexico of any time on the ball needed to produce a response. Japan had no problems converting chances either, scoring on four of its seven shots on goal.

Mexico could never find the attacking guile it had displayed against England. The team's most prolific striker, Maribel Dominguez, got substituted at the hour mark and other than a long-range effort from Stephany Mayor after the half, Mexico never threatened Japan's stout defense.

The result move Japan into the quarterfinals for just the second time ever. The score line puts Mexico's chances of advancing out of group play at a minimum. The team will need to defeat final group stage opponents New Zealand and score at least five clear goals to avoid elimination.

It might prove to be a tall task, as was showcased in the other Group B match between England and New Zealand in Dresden. England avoided humiliation by edging New Zealand 2-1 in a scrappy match where momentum was swapped between the sides. Unlike Japan's thoroughly commanding performance hours earlier, England needed a late surge to pull themselves ahead of the rangy Football Ferns.

New Zealand needed a win to have any hope of extending its World Cup stay and went out to get it. The team displayed little of the defensive mentality it had shown against Japan earlier in the week. John Herdman's side put out a varied attack that wasn't strictly reliant on long balls.

The modified game plan proved to be effective, as a lovely five pass sequence resulted in New Zealand's first goal of the game when forward Sarah Gregorious got on the end of a perfectly placed cross in the 18th minute.

England appeared shell shocked and disorganized as New Zealand continued to press both centrally and out wide. Later in the first half, Gregorious tried for a second but England left back Rachel Unitt succeeded in a last-ditch effort to tackle the ball away.

Hope Powell's team needed to regroup in the second half. The team emerged from halftime and put forth a more positive response.

England right back Alex Scott became more involved, opening up the flanks with good crosses. The team began to control the midfield and retained possession for longer periods.

The equalizer finally arrived in the 64th minute when Scott swung in a cross that was headed in by lofty midfielder Jill Scott.

Rather than retreating into a defensive shell, New Zealand continued to attack, as obtaining three points was critical for survival. Herdman changed his system to a 4-3-3 when he introduced forward Rosie White for outside midfielder Ria Percivel. White almost made the difference for her team with her first touch but just missed left back Ali Riley's cross.

With 10 minutes to play, Scott played the hero once more as she displayed extraordinary vision in picking out a pass for second half substitute Jess Clarke to calmly finish.

The goal gave England the lead, and New Zealand couldn't find a way back. England now needs at least a draw to assure qualification to the knockout stage. New Zealand's journey, meanwhile, ends here, regardless of result of its final group stage match against Mexico. Still, the Football Ferns can leave Germany knowing they won over spectators with their steely determination.

The team's vigorous performance, along with Japan's high-flying outing against Mexico proved, showed Group B is the "the Group of Life".