ANALYSIS: As the Football Ferns prepare for another match with Olympic champions Canada on Wednesday, the respective journeys of the two nations are hard to ignore, writes Michael Burgess.
On 11th June 2015, the Football Ferns took the field against Canada in Edmonton at the FIFA Women's World Cup.
Playing at their home World Cup, Canada had the advantage of a huge local support but couldn't overcome a gritty New Zealand side.
While the hosts had more chances in the 0-0 draw, the Ferns missed the best opportunity, with Amber Hearn's first half penalty hitting the crossbar.
Six years later, it feels like the two nations have never been further apart, epitomised by the 5-1 result on Sunday in Ottawa.
While a couple of the goals conceded were unfortunate, Canada also passed up several other chances to inflict further damage, and their second half dominance was frightening at times.
New Zealand were missing some players – notably Abby Erceg, Rebekah Stott and Hannah Wilkinson, while Paige Satchell's pace might have provided something different.
But the Ferns still had most of their recent first choice team and tons of experience, with four centurions and two others with more than 70 caps.
Looking back, the 2015 World Cup was a turning point for both nations and reflected the fine margins of international football.
Canada topped the group, mainly due to a last gasp 1-0 win over China, with Christine Sinclair converting a 93rd minute penalty. They beat Switzerland 1-0 in the round of 16, before being stopped by England in the quarter-final.
In contrast, the 2015 Ferns were left to wonder what might have been.
Aside from Hearn's penalty miss, there was a frustrating 2-2 draw with China, a team they had beaten in three of their four previous encounters, with the Asian side benefitting from an incorrect penalty decision.
A victory would have sent New Zealand through to the knockout rounds, with a game against world No 53 Cameroon for a place in the last eight, but it wasn't to be.
That tournament was probably the peak moment for this Ferns generation, who were solid throughout in a tough group. They haven't reached those performance heights since on the world stage.
But Canada have gone from strength to strength; third place at 2016 Olympics, second round at 2019 Women's World Cup (eliminated by eventual bronze medallists Sweden) and the gold medal in Japan earlier this year.
There are some contributing factors, as Canada have a large player base, considerable resources and benefit greatly from the proximity to the United States.
But the Ferns, for whatever reason, haven't progressed enough since 2015.
It's not for lack of activity, as Wednesday's game will be their 50th match since that World Cup (the All Whites have played 33 times in the same period).
The Ferns have had considerable investment over the last decade, specifically from High Performance Sport New Zealand, with hundreds of thousands poured into campaign funding.
And the playing group have been given every opportunity to learn, grow and improve together.
Nine of Sunday's starting XI were part of that World Cup six years ago, with four other 2015 survivors in the Olympic squad earlier this year (Erceg, Annalie Longo, Wilkinson and Green).
It's early days for new coach Jitka Klimková, who will be given time to establish her systems, styles and structures. Klimková has promised an improved performance on Wednesday (12:30pm), which should happen, but the historical trend gives cause for concern, with the 2023 World Cup only 20 months away.
"This is our beginning, this is our start," said Klimková on Sunday. "The finale should be at home in 2023 and we are preparing for it. We can't wait for this moment but there are a lot of games in front of us and that's what we want."