There are two options you could take when playing an international friendly against a team ranked nine places higher than your own.
You could throw everything at them. Set up with an aggressive formation and attack with all you have – it is only a friendly after all. Or, you can line up in an ultra-defensive formation, allow the opposition to control the tempo and possession, and simply face the brunt of their attack.
Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf opted for the latter in his side's 3-1 loss against Japan in Wellington on Sunday. Without a win in eight previous encounters against Japan, the Football Ferns didn't look like breaking that duck at any point in the match, with only 27 per cent of the possession with the Kiwis.
"We saw some positives at halftime, also some negatives, but there will be a lot of things we can move forward with in the coming months heading towards the World Cup," defender Meikayla Moore said after the loss.
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The Kiwi side head to New Caledonia in November looking to book their spot in next year's World Cup, but will need to give more than they showed against Japan when the Oceania Football Confederation Women's Nations Cup gets underway.
Lining up with five at the back and just one up front, parking the bus against Japan did the New Zealand side absolutely no good in front of 7,236 fans at Westpac Stadium. The visitors unsurprisingly controlled the play early, with the Football Ferns defending for more or less the entirety of the opening exchanges.
As a result, the visitors got on the board early after Mina Tanaka scored the first of her three first half goals in the 17th minute.
The Kiwi side hit back immediately with their first real attacking possession, with Moore scoring her first international goal from a goalmouth scramble following a corner.
They only levelled things momentarily however, as Tanaka snuck in behind the defensive line to tap home her second from close range. She added another on the stroke of halftime, heading home a cross to seal her first international hat-trick.
There was a lot to be desired from both teams in the second stanza. Japan missed a few good opportunities to extend their lead, with Kiwi goalkeeper Erin Nayler doing a solid job between the posts. But the first half damage was enough for the visitors to take a comfortable win.
Japan 3 (Mina Tanaka 3)
Football Ferns 1 (Meikayla Moore)