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The Netherlands scored a last gasp winner in the 93rd minute.
On the balance of play the 1-0 scoreline was probably a fair result, with the European champions dominating possession and laying siege to the New Zealand goal in the second half.
But the Ferns rearguard had successfully repelled waves of attack from La Oranje, and were oh-so-close to picking up a valuable point before Holland's late, late winner.
Dutch substitute Jill Roord headed home, after the ball had been sent back across goal from a deep cross.
The post game review will be hard to watch, as Roord got there ahead of defender Abby Erceg and goal keeper Erin Nayler, who was otherwise excellent between the posts.
As the match wore on in the second half the Ferns sat deeper and deeper, but looked to have done enough to earn a draw.
The equation could have been so different had New Zealand been able to convert one of a handful of opportunities they created in the match.
Olivia Chance was unlucky to strike the crossbar with an early shot, and midway through the first half a long range left footed effort from Rosie White, after fine build up play, brought out a strong stop from the Dutch keeper Sarai van Veenendaal.
Sarah Gregorius came close just after the halftime break, but miscued her shot from a Betsy Hassett cross and van Veenendaal did well to save.
Though the manner and timing of the Dutch goal will be hard to stomach, the Ferns will take some confidence from their display.
They were well organised defensively — with the Netherlands looking most dangerous from set pieces — and showed they can engineer openings at this level.
But they struggled to keep possession for sustained periods in the second half, which ramped up the pressure, though the Ferns generally contained the Dutch attack, particularly star forward Lieke Martens.
"I was happy with the performance right throughout the game," said Ferns coach Tom Sermanni.
"I thought we were courageous, battled hard and were unbelievably disciplined. We gave everything we could give and tactically the players did everything we asked of them. It's a bit heart-breaking but that's football."
"The players will be absolutely devastated but we're a resilient group and I'm pretty confident we'll bounce back.
"We came up against one of the best teams in the world who have a chance to win this tournament and I think we went shoulder-to-shoulder with them. We can go away with a lot of confidence from this game."
The Football Ferns take on Canada in their second match of Group E on Sunday morning (NZT).