The Young Football Ferns have gone down 1-0 to Mexico in their first game at the Fifa Under-17 Football World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The spattering of Kiwi supporters were kept quiet for most of the game, with the Young Ferns largely kept on the back foot, often forced into desperate defence by a bigger, stronger Mexican side.
Keeper Lily Alfield was a standout in goal for New Zealand, making several excellent saves including two brilliant efforts in the 65th minute. Her only blemish was a 36th minute goal to Fernanda Perez.
The first half was all Mexico with the South Americans reeling off 10 shots at goal before finally connecting from a corner.
Both sides appeared to suffer from a few nerves early, with ball control and wayward passing an issue.
As seems to be the case with most New Zealand football sides, the Young Ferns spent the majority of the half on defence but credit must go to the trio of Emily Jensen, Megan Lee and particularly Laura Merrin, who did an excellent job of putting the Mexicans off target.
Lee's status for the second game against Japan on Thursday (NZT) is uncertain however after she had to be helped off the field midway through the second half.
Mexico were slightly impatient on attack early in the first half, with most of their attempts sailing high over the crossbar.
The Kiwis on the other hand were restricted to only three attempts at goal in the opening stanza.
Jasmine Pereira and captain Hannah Carlsen both looked threatening and a free kick from Vancouver Whitecap Emma Fletcher was just high.
But despite New Zealand's best attempts, Mexico finally collected on their persistent attacking efforts from a corner kick. Keeper Alfield was pulled out off her line, the ball going over her head to give the Mexicans a one-goal buffer at the half.
The Young Ferns started the second half with much more purpose than the first, enjoying more possession on attack but their passing will need to improve if they are to challenge Japan and Brazil.
The pace and heat seemed to catch up with the Kiwis towards the end and despite enjoying more possession, they simply could not create any real attacking opportunities.
Japan and Brazil will also play tonight with the Kiwis to face Japan on Thursday morning and Brazil on Sunday night (NZT).
New Zealand needs to finish in the top two in order to progress to the quarter-finals
- © Fairfax NZ News