Yes, they had an extremely inexperienced team (more than half had fewer than ten caps).
Yes, this game was out of a FIFA window, meaning they couldn’t call up their best players, stacking the odds against them.
But, there are some embers here to warm the hopes of football fans come July’s World Cup and there’s already some fire in the belly of players.
“I couldn’t have asked for more from our staff, from our players, from this camp, that had a lot of criticism about it and we have come in here and made the most of it,” said Ali Riley after the game.
It was in response to questions about the importance of this heavily depleted squad, six months out from a home World Cup, being competitive against a US side they’d only beaten once in 19 encounters and who in their last four encounters had beaten them by a margin of five goals.
Before the game both Riley and Klimkova had said the result was not important, but for 51 minutes, this Football Ferns team managed to negate and stifle the World Champions.
New Zealand’s 4-4-2 system with a very flatpack midfield was robust, dogged and cunning, pouncing on any misstep, bad touch or misplaced pass with an emphasis to counter attack and target the USA defence in broken play.
Particularly impressive was Betsy Hassett, Daisy Cleverley, Olivia Chance and Grace Jale’s pressing and physicality in the middle, preventing the USA’s transitions of play, denying their ability to feed their attackers with quality ball.
By no means does this mean the Football Ferns are going to beat the USA on Saturday or turn into World Cup contenders overnight, but there are some promising signs in what was a 4-0 defeat.
This wasn’t a “parking the bus” tactical exercise from Klimkova; there was substance to how New Zealand’s women played within the limitations that exists in this current squad.
In Wellington we saw a foundation where at full strength with players like Hannah Wilkinson, Ria Percival, Claudia Bunge and Katie Bowen this team could flourish under Klimkova’s guidance.
“We want to be unpredictable, we don’t want to be clear in how we are going to play so we are looking to different formations,” Klimkova said to me after the match.
“There is potential to be more.”
As there should be, because for all the defensive work the Football Ferns did, they still struggled to form attacking opportunities.
Nil-all at the break, Olivia Chance admitted the team believed they had a chance to snatch a result, but football is a 90-minute game and world class teams will make you pay for your errors.
A lapse in concentration and organisation during a period of 15-20 minutes in the second half was all the Americans, and Rose Lavelle, needed to run away with the game the Football Ferns admit.
Lavelle wooed the record 12,508 crowd in Wellington with flashes of creative brilliance as showcased with her backheel pass to set up fellow star teammate Alex Morgan.