The spirited Kiwis made an honest fist of it at a packed National Soccer Stadium in Toronto on Monday, but Portugal's oozing overall class and Bruno Gama's ice-cool set-pieces saw the Lusitanians win out 2-0 to race to the top of Group C.
Braga starlet and skipper Gama made the match his own in the 45th minute despite some admirable Kiwi resistance, side-footing an elegant free kick into the top corner on the stroke of halftime. The Kiwis hustled and bustled early on in the second period and, to their credit, never threw in the towel. However, the outstanding Gama - whose link-up play with the aptly named Pele was a delight - was not to be denied. After earning a penalty on the end of a sweeping team move, he stepped up to stroke home once to his right and then once more to his left after an encroaching player forced the kick to be retaken. It was the 1600th goal scored in FIFA U-20 World Championship history.
Beaten but not disgraced, New Zealand, who had a few good chances late in the game, proved they belong here at these finals while Portugal set themselves up at the top of the group with realistic hopes of going far in the Great White North.