As the All Whites walked off the field yesterday at the Krestovsky arena, they received a large, generous ovation from the Russian crowd.

It epitomised the impact of this team here, who, in the space of eight days, have impressed many with their spirit and flair.

They've had moments of inspiration, but ultimately not enough to achieve a positive result.

The group, and especially coach Anthony Hudson, talked a lot before the tournament of wanting to make history, to achieve something no other All Whites side had at a senior Fifa tournament.


It didn't happen, which means this campaign will rank below the 2009 Confederations Cup, even though instinct tells you this team was more competitive.

"It's not a pass mark," said All White Ryan Thomas. "If it was a pass mark, we would have got out of the group and do what we came here to do. But it is progress ...

"It's been a long time since a New Zealand side has dominated like we have in parts of these games. You've seen the way we could have been playing with the Mexico game. We need to work on it, it is a young team."

Yesterday's 4-0 loss to Portugal saw a patchy display. There were moments of brilliance interspersed with periods where the All Whites struggled to get a foothold and only the heroics of goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic kept the score down.

If the All Whites had belied their underdog status against Mexico, the gulf in yesterday's match was more apparent.

Against the European champions - complete with Cristiano Ronaldo - the All Whites never really stamped their mark.

"Maybe a bit of confidence," said young fullback Dane Ingham, when asked what was the main difference between the All Whites' performances against Mexico and Portugal.

"We went into the Mexico game and we really believed we could get something out of it," said Ingham. "We went out there and we didn't fear them. I think [yesterday] we played with a little bit of fear.


"But there were still some good patches. When we don't play with fear, we can match it with these teams, which is a positive. But it is about doing it for 90 minutes."

Yesterday's game changed in the space of five minutes in the first half. After New Zealand had made a bright start, and had the best early opportunity through Chris Wood, Portugal began to take control. Ronaldo was a constant menace, with his late angled runs into the area followed by jumps of power and precision. He converted a 33rd minute penalty, then Bernardo Silva doubled Portugal's lead four minutes later.

"Towards the end of the first half, we showed them a little too much respect and sat off them a bit too much and, with the players they have, they made us pay," said Thomas. "[We] moved the ball a bit more in the second half, created some chances."

New Zealand were overmatched yesterday - like they were against Spain in 2009 and Brazil in 2006 - but this All Whites group is a considerably younger team than either of those outfits.

That gives some confidence, though there is a lot of work to be done with less than six months until the big intercontinental playoffs against the fifth-placed South American team, if New Zealand qualify.

"The big ask for us here was three games in eight days," said Hudson. "Physically, as a minimum, we need to cope [and] we can compete with these teams."

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