Mexico 2 All Whites 1
It was hard to sum up the depth of disappointment among the All Whites team after their 2-1 loss to Mexico this morning.
It was a match that New Zealand deserved more - so much more - but ended with just the pride that comes from such a performance.
Everyone, from coach Anthony Hudson and captain Chris Wood, to the junior members of the squad, struggled to find the right words to express themselves in the wake of the game.
In time the New Zealand team will appreciate the performance, but hours after the game the emotion was too raw.
As they filed out of Fisht arena at close to midnight, the realisation was beginning to sink in about how close they had been to a significant upset.
The All Whites dominated the first half, creating several chances while taking one to Wood in the 42nd minute. They had further chances early in the second half to make it 2-0, with Wood going extremely close, which would have completely changed the complexion of the match.
"I'm incredibly disappointed," said Hudson. "It was a huge performance; we showed quality, we showed spirit and I really believe we should have got more from the game. To be honest I'm absolutely gutted. I have a real feeling of 'too little too late' with this tournament."
Captain Wood echoed those sentiments.
"We should have got a lot more from that game," said Wood. "We had our chances, we needed to be more clinical and it would have been a different outcome."
Wood took his goal superbly, after a pinpoint ball from Clayton Lewis bisected the Mexican defence, the Leeds United striker scoring New Zealand's first goal at a Confederations Cup since 2003.
But Wood was also rueing missed opportunities, which on another day could have seen him grab a hat trick. He was foiled by keeper Alfredo Talavera as he tried to dribble round him minutes into the second half, and midway through the first half hit his shot too close to the keeper with the goal at his mercy.
But the performance was a significant improvement on that Russian defeat, and light years away from the fare tossed up in Belarus. The All Whites exhibited hunger, intensity and passion, as well as plenty of skill.
They also tried to play, abandoning the emphasis on the long ball that had marred their first half display against Russia. Mexico looked disorganised at times, not helped by coach Juan Carlos Osorio making eight chances from the lineup that drew 2-2 with Portugal, and were harried by New Zealand's pressing strategy.
It meant that the All Whites earned themselves time and space on the ball, and they grew in confidence. Lewis added to the vision and the passing nous on the team, while Marco Rojas looked more comfortable in a more advanced role close to Wood. Ryan Thomas was again superb.
Unfortunately the New Zealand side backed off slightly after halftime, allowing EL Tri to equalize and regain the intiative.
Mexico settled after that, no longer contemplating exiting the tournament at the hands of a team from the bottom of the South Pacific. They piled on the pressure, and a second goal eventually came in the 72nd minute through Oribe Peralta. The All Whites fought to the last - with Thomas blasting the ball against the post late on - but to no avail. The match almost descended into farce late on, as a crude Mexican foul sparked a near all-in brawl on the field and between the benches.
Mexico 2 ( R Jimenez, O Peralta )
New Zealand 1 (C Wood )
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