The shot-shy Young Football Ferns paid for their inability to fashion meaningful chances to lose their opening match at the Under-17 Women's World Cup 1-0 to Mexico.
Paul Temple's side dominated possession at Bayil Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan, but Mexico, who had 24 shots at goal compared to New Zealand's seven, scored through a 36th minute header by striker Fernanda Perez.
New Zealand's best chance fell to Emma Fletcher who went close from a free kick in the first half of Sunday's match.
Temple says the side passed the ball well, but did not threaten enough and 33C heat took its toll on his players.
Fill-in centre back Megan Lee hobbled off after 70 minutes left causing problems at the back for Temple who is already missing CJ Bott with an ankle injury.New Zealand play Japan on Thursday (NZT).