Football Ferns 1
The Football Ferns are on the edge of Olympic elimination, after a 6-1 defeat to the United States on Saturday night.
After their first-up loss to Australia, they'll need a miraculous result in their final game against unbeaten group leaders Sweden to have any chance of making the quarter-finals.
Despite the result, the Ferns will take some heart from this performance, highlighted by Betsy Hassett's 71st minute goal.
It was an improved effort from Tom Sermanni's side, even if most of the match was a rear-guard action, though three late American goals gave the scoreline a bloated look.
The Ferns conceded two own goals, including one in the 93rd minute, for a sour finish to the match.
Facing the United States is always intimidating – the reigning world champions have won just about everything over the last decade – and they had scored 19 goals, conceding one, in their last five clashes against the Ferns.
But this match was even more daunting, after the Americans' shock 3-0 loss to Sweden on Wednesday.
The GPS trackers on the New Zealand players would have recorded some astronomical mileage, as the Ferns chased their highly vaunted opponents tirelessly.
But they created a couple of decent chances, aside from Hassett's goal, and overall had more purpose offensively than the untidy effort against Australia.
However, any chance of getting something from the match was extinguished just before halftime, when Lindsay Horan headed the Americans second goal.
The United States had dominated the first 45 minutes, but it was nevertheless a deflating time to concede for the Ferns, who lost focus defensively for periods during the match.
Coach Sermanni made a major change, selecting Anna Leat in goal ahead of long-time custodian Erin Nayler.
Leat has been knocking on the door for a while, but it was a bold call to use the 20-year-against the United States.
But Nayler had a mixed night against Australia, coming off a nightmare season in England where she only started one game for Reading.
Another youngster Daisy Cleverley was also drafted in – in place of Anna Green – as the Ferns switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
They made a bright start, with Hannah Wilkinson forcing a good save from American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, from a neat pass by Olivia Chance.
But after that scare, the United States opened their account with a ninth-minute goal from midfielder Rose Lavelle.
A miscued clearance fell to Tobin Heath, whose pass sent Lavelle away to finish neatly inside the near post.
The Americans were dominant and had ball in the net on three further occasions in the first half, all scratched for offside.
New Zealand kept fighting, with endeavour if not execution, at times enduring long periods without any meaningful possession.
But they showed grit, and almost stunned the United States, when Wilkinson went close again, her angled header beating the keeper but also the far post.
Given how they had worked, the second American goal to Horan was a gut punch. It was a well worked corner – with Megan Rapinoe's deep ball headed back across – before Horan applied the finishing touch. But the Ferns seemed to switch off momentarily, with plenty of defenders in the vicinity but no one close enough to Horan.
The Kiwi side showed more enterprise in the second half and held the Americans at bay until the 63rd minute, with an unfortunate own goal by Abby Erceg. It was tough on the veteran defender, who had another impressive display, but headed into her own net trying to clear a Lloyd effort.
The Ferns' efforts were rewarded with Hassett's cool strike in the 71st minute, after being set up by Paige Satchell. The pacy youngster pressured the American defence into a mistake, before showing impressive composure to draw the keeper, allowing Hassett to guide into an empty net.
That noticeably lifted the Ferns, before Christen Press restored the three-goal margin in the 80th minute.
Alex Morgan added a fifth in the dying minutes, when captain Ali Riley failed to clear a cross, before CJ Bott, who had a strong game, deflected the ball into her own net with the last kick of the game.
United States 6 (Tobin Heath 9, Lindsay Horan 45, Abby Erceg 63 [own goal], Christen Press 80, Alex Morgan 87, CJ Bott [own goal] 93)
New Zealand 1 (Betsy Hassett 72)