All Whites skipper Winston Reid says it's been easy to see the steady improvement in the team since coach Anthony Hudson took charge three years ago.
Reid has joined the Kiwis in Nagoya has they prepare for Friday's friendly international against Japan, the last match before the All Whites' World Cup intercontinental play-off in November.
New Zealand's opposition for the home-and-away series won't be finalised until next week, as they wait to see which team finishes fifth in the South American confederation.
The Kiwis, ranked 113th in the world, should get a good indication of their form when they meet world No.40 Japan.
But Reid, one of two All Whites playing in the prestigious English Premier League, is confident the team are tracking well under Hudson.
"Things have been improving since Anthony came in - every single time I come back into camp, everything seems to improve," he said.
"It's good to see there's progression within the group, and hopefully that will continue."
The West Ham defender said it was important to get a good result against Japan if the All Whites wanted to approach their crucial World Cup qualifier with the right mindset.
"If you play against quality opposition, it's only going to help you," he said.
"We'll approach the game in the right way, with a good game plan and some good training sessions, and we'll lead ourselves into the next window, which is the most important one."
Reid has overcome the ankle injury which ruled him out of last month's All Whites' Oceania qualifying series against the Solomon Islands, won 8-3 on aggregate by the Kiwis,
He said the New Zealanders had deliberately concentrated on getting the most out of their game against Japan, rather than focusing on the all-important World Cup intercontinental qualifiers.
"This is the final test before we have the games next month," he said.
"We have to learn from what we do well in the game but there'll also be some mistakes, and we have to make sure we learn from them as well."