Rosie White scored an 85th minute equaliser as the Football Ferns drew 1-1 with world number six Brazil in horrible conditions at Mt Smart Stadium last night.
After Brazil opened the scoring just two minutes from the break as Cristiane tucked the ball home in a crowded penalty area in the aftermath of a corner, it took until the last five minutes for the Football Ferns to draw level.
After several near misses from the lively Hannah Wilkinson - who saw two headers come back off the bar - it was substitute White who headed in a Wilkinson cross.
It had seemed, until White's intervention, the New Zealand side were going to be frustrated in defeat which would have been a harsh penalty on the Football Ferns - ranked 20 in the world - as the home side controlled possession well and regularly threatened the Brazilian goal throughout the contest played in driving rain.
Football Ferns coach Tony Readings was left frustrated his side had not got the reward he felt they deserved from a performance which thoroughly tested the world number six side.
"We've played like that all year and similar to today we've not got the rewards we could have from the game," Readings said.
"I'm disappointed really, we had a couple of penalties we didn't get and a couple of chances we could have done a bit better with and I thought we could have won by a couple today but we'll learn from that."
A game played in torrential rain took on an increasingly physical tone as the Football Ferns stood up to their opposition, typified by a strong defensive display from midfielder Katie Hoyle who earned a yellow card for a robust challenge mid-way through the second half.
"It was always going to become a physical battle," Readings said, "it always does in conditions like that. I'm proud of the way we hung in there won the physical contests. In the second half as the conditions got worse, we got stronger and got more physical."
Wilkinson, who played a big hand in White's leveller - delivering an inch-perfect cross for the UCLA striker to head home - was impressive throughout the contest as the Northland product's pace and strength proved tough for Brazil to deal with.
"Hannah has been one of best players this year," Readings said, "she's been outstanding and tonight was another example of the threat she has. She's got pace, she's strong and she gives the best defenders in the world trouble."
After the final whistle, Readings saw the tell-tale signs of a team eager to keep their upward momentum of recent years rolling.
"You see the reaction in the players as they came off the pitch. A year ago they may have been celebrating with a draw but the players are really disappointed. Not with the performance, but our goals are always to win games the way we want to play."
The teams now head to Taupo on Tuesday for the second game of the series at Owen Delany Park on Thursday.