Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf hit back on the torrent of criticism that has engulfed his methods, saying that it is the only way for future success
In the wake of New Zealand's negative performance in the 3-1 loss to Japan on Sunday, plenty of pundits have questioned his one dimensional approach, which saw the Ferns virtually cede possession, territory and initiative to their opponents for long periods.
But Heraf, who is also New Zealand Football's Technical Director, remains steadfast, finding plenty of positives from the game in Wellington.
"It was a huge step in the right direction," Heraf told the Herald. "We know we are still not there where we want to be but that is a logical process when you have a big goal. We want to win the first game at a World Cup with the Ferns and the game against Japan was a move in that direction."
Heraf also defended his team's strategy, in front of a record crowd for a Ferns' match in New Zealand.
"I don't agree it was awful football…maybe not attacking football," said Heraf. "There is always a balance between attacking and defending. For this game we had to focus on defence. The only thing that didn't work out was our attacking style."
Former captain Abby Erceg has been prominent in her criticism since the match, equating Heraf's strategy to "cowering in a corner" and confirming his tactical approach was one of the main reasons she retired for the second time.
Heraf said he was unaware of Erceg's comments – curious, given their airplay – but also brushed them off.
"I haven't heard Abby Erceg's comments," said Heraf. "But it's her opinion. A fantastic player, but she made the decision not to join us anymore. We have to accept that and focus on our girls…on who is available and wants to play."
"Last week was a big step. The players were working hard, we have the big goal of going through the group stages, we call it with a clear slogan, we have all our posters in the dining room and meeting room; 'History's possible'."
Heraf was on the front foot on Tuesday, but he had to be after the fallout following Sunday's match.
There was a significant media turnout at NZF's Albany headquarters, and Heraf sat through one on one interviews with all the major news organisations.
The 50-year-old maintained he was the right man for the job, even though it came about in unusual circumstances, as a normal scenario would see the technical director appoint the Ferns' coach.
The former Austrian international is convinced he has the faith and belief of the dressing room, and that his path is the only way, even if there are some painful teething problems at first.
"For sure I am the right one," said Heraf. "I know what I do. When you see it as a modular system, getting piece by piece, we made one step. It didn't help us to win, but it helped us to develop in a certain area, the defending one."