Good on Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni for telling it straight.

His answers were refreshingly honest, after New Zealand's limp 2-0 defeat to Canada at the Women's World Cup this morning.

Given the circumstances and what was at stake, there is simply no way to sugarcoat things.

It was one of the most disappointing performances by a Ferns side at a World Cup.

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At a time when the players — collectively and individually — should have been looking to play the game of their lives, almost no one did.

A defeat to Canada, who are ranked No. 5 in the world and look a superb team, is no disgrace, but losing without putting up a decent fight is. The team in red were excellent, but their opponents rolled out the red carpet.

While coaches in the past have sprinkled words like 'gallant', 'brave' and 'courageous' in these situations, the vastly experienced Sermanni was having none of that.

His team were poor, and he made no attempt to mask that.

"We were holding on from the start to be honest," said Sermanni. "I don't think at any stage we got a foothold in the game. We were thoroughly outplayed. I thought we never really at any stage had an opportunity to be in the game."

New Zealand teams can rarely match world ranked opponents on a technical level, but often compensate with desire, intensity and focus.

That didn't happen today, and Sermanni admitted the Ferns were second best to everything.

"I don't think we won a challenge," said Sermanni. "I don't think we won any kind of loose ball. I don't think at any time we got close enough to put pressure on the Canadian players."

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Football Ferns team huddle after their loss to Canada. Photo / Photosport
Football Ferns team huddle after their loss to Canada. Photo / Photosport

The statistics made sobering reading.

Canada had 22 shots on goal, twice hit the woodwork and had another attempt cleared off the line.

New Zealand had two attempts; an Olivia Chance volley that skewed well wide of the target and an Abby Erceg header late in the match, and Canadian keeper Stephanie Labbe didn't have a save to make across the 90 minutes.

Canada also enjoyed 70 per cent possession, and at one point in the first half their possession rate was higher than the United States had enjoyed during their 13-0 rout of Thailand last week.

The Ferns were constantly under pressure with the ball, rarely managing sequences of more than three or four passes.

There were some caveats. CJ Bott's exit after 15 minutes with a broken wrist was a double blow.

Not only is Bott one of the team's most capable defenders, but her departure also meant that Ria Percival had to be shifted from her holding midfield role.

In the current system Percival is the fulcrum of the team – in and out of possession – and her absence was hard to compensate for.

Canada were also brilliant, with their slick ball movement, pace up front and intelligent manoeurving off the ball.

But those factors still can't explain away this Ferns display. As Sermanni pointed out, aside from the first five or six minutes, they were hardly in the game.

And only after Nichelle Prince scored Canada's second goal in the 80th minute did New Zealand look to push forward with intent.

This is a vastly experienced Ferns side, with most of the team having multiple World Cups behind them.

But instead of rising to the occasion, they froze in the spotlight.

Central defensive pairing Rebekah Stott and Erceg emerged with some credit – though Erceg was dragged out of position for Canada's opening goal – and goal keeper Erin Nayler did well on a busy night.

But there will be soul searching amongst the rest of the squad, and changes have to be made for the final match against Cameroon on Friday (NZT).

Sermanni's decision not to use either Hannah Wilkinson nor Paige Satchell off the bench in the second half was hard to understand, and surely one or both will feature in the next game, as Sarah Gregorius, whilst living off scraps, struggled to provide any cutting edge up front.