New Zealand's campaign got off to a disappointing start at the World League finals in Tucuman, Argentina yesterday.
The Black Sticks, who have dropped one spot to world No 4 on the latest rankings, were beaten 2-0 by China, who sit three spots lower, in their opening pool B game.
Failure to take their chances cost New Zealand dearly. They had 10 shots on goal compared with three for the Chinese but paid for their lack of clinical finishing, and found Chinese goalkeeper Li Dongxiao in strong form.
"I thought we were disappointing in the attacking third," coach Mark Hager said. "We created enough opportunities to win the game but did not convert. Our basic skills also let us down and need to improve."
China got an early lead when Cui Qiuxia nudged the ball past goalkeeper Sally Rutherford after she had blocked a shot from a penalty corner but could not control the rebound.
The Black Sticks had five penalty corner chances but squandered the lot.
The killer blow came nine minutes from the end when Huang Ting reacted quickest to a loose ball close in to score.
Rutherford blocked a penalty stroke but otherwise most of the action was heading towards the Chinese goal where New Zealand captain Kayla Sharland, Anita Punt and Sophie Cocks had chances.
Next up New Zealand play hosts and new world No 1 Argentina, who were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by Australia in their first game yesterday. Hager knows improvements are needed and quickly.
"Our basic skills let us down. Now we just need to refocus on the next challenge," Hager said.
In Pool A, world champions the Netherlands belted Germany 6-0 while England, now ranked third, beat Korea 6-2.