New Zealand's future at the Under-20 World Cup hangs in the balance, after a resounding 4-0 defeat at the hands of the United States last night.
An occasion that promised so much was ultimately flat, as the home side offered little against a superb American team. They lacked the energy and conviction they had displayed against Ukraine, and at times passed the ball with the accuracy of a group had just been introduced before kick-off, not a squad that has enjoyed the best build up of any New Zealand team in history.
The Junior All Whites still have a chance of progressing to the second round - a victory against Myanmar would probably be enough - but that is by no means assured on this evidence. New Zealand lack a cutting edge in front of goal, are too predictable in midfield and look hesitant at the back. It won't be an easy repair job over the next few days.
The United States were a cut above. Their movement, touch and vision was far superior for most of the match and Arsenal's Gedion Zelalem lived up to the hype; he was brilliant and looks an early contender for the Golden Ball award.
But it didn't help that the Junior All Whites couldn't retain the ball in midfield. There was some pretty stuff in their own half but possession was almost immediately squandered whenever they came close to the final third. They also couldn't hold the ball up front - American striker Rubio Rubin gave a master-class in this - and too often resorted to a hopeful long ball forward.
Even the New Zealand kick off routine, where the ball is played long to the corners, looked like something out of Graham Taylor's Watford play book in the early 1980s. The American defenders, marshalled by the impressive Matthew Miazga (New York Red Bulls), were far too good for that. And when New Zealand did get into good positions, they tended to attack down narrow channels, instead of looking for open spaces. Overall it feels like a massive missed opportunity; a 15,000 strong crowd but not much of a product from the home side.
New Zealand made the worst possible start. After Noah Billingsley had a good early chance - stopped by a timely tackle - Rubin snapped home a rebound in the sixth minute to give the United States the lead. The Americans then put the foot on the accelerator.
Their second goal (33rd minute) was lucky - a mistake by Oliver Sail - but just reward for their dominance, as Fulham's Emerson Hyndman slid the ball into an empty net. Paul Arriola added the visitor's third just before the hour to kill the game - and the occasion - off and their fourth (83rd minute) sent the crowd heading for the exits.
New Zealand 0
United States 4 (R Rubin 6, 83 E Hyndham 33, P Arriola 58)