The New Zealand women's soccer side fell to their heaviest defeat in three years yesterday when they were beaten 4-0 by South Korea in the Cyprus Cup tournament.
It continued a poor run of results for the Football Ferns, who have failed to win any of their six games this year. Their best result was a 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland, who are ranked 33 in the world.
The New Zealand side seemed to be showing good progress last year when they beat Brazil (ranked fourth) and Italy (12th) and drew with the US (1st), Australia (9th) and Japan (3rd). It showed they could compete with any nation in women's soccer and saw them jump to 16 in the world rankings.
Tony Readings' side will now play Finland tonight in a playoff for 11th and 12th at the Cyprus Cup. They finished third at the 12-team tournament last year and had targeted another good finish this time around.
Yesterday's defeat was the biggest since New Zealand were beaten 5-0 by Mexico at the 2011 Cyprus Cup. The game was played in windy conditions, with the Football Ferns trailing 2-0 at halftime despite playing with the wind in the first half.
Readings is missing a handful of regulars, with Ali Riley the most notable absentee, and opted to give a number of youngsters more experience in the tournament. The coach has put a big accent on a passing game and possession as they look ahead to the 2015 World Cup in Canada and 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil but they are clearly struggling for cohesion and results.
"It's difficult to accept losing 4-0 but what we've succumbed to is a little bit of indecision at the back and that stems back to a lack of cohesion from having new players in there," Readings said.
"What we've been able to do in this tournament is give a lot more game time to younger players. While last year we got some really great results, we did that without building too much depth in the squad.
"Individually players are performing well but it does take a while for the players to gel when they first come into the team and that's cost us a little bit in this tournament."