As the team bus reverberated to the sound of raucous laughter and traditional songs, it was hard to believe that - little over 12 hours earlier - this New Zealand squad had crashed out of a World Cup.

The natural conclusion was that their destination, the rose-red city of Petra - Jordan's most spectacular and popular tourist site - was the fillip needed to raise spirits after a 2-0 defeat to Spain had ended their Jordan 2016 hopes. Not so, according to team manager Kelly Bolus.

"Honestly, the girls didn't even need cheered up," she said. "It's a great group we have here; there are definitely no sulkers or prima donnas. And although they were exceptionally disappointed with what the Spain result represented, in terms of knocking us out, they were proud of the performance they'd given.

"The coaching staff are also good in terms of keeping things focused on the positives and what the players can learn from. It's a young group - our first-choice keeper, for example, is just 15 - and there will be four-to-six of these girls going to Papua New Guinea for the U-20 World Cup next month. All of them, the entire squad, will benefit massively from the experiences they've had here in Jordan."

What is immediately apparent about New Zealand is that, whatever they do - win, lose, cry or sing - they do as a team. So, as Mexican waves swept round the bus, games were played and hair braided, there was no-one who remained aloof or separate from the festivities. As forward Sam Tawharu told "We've been together for a while now and the girls have really bonded. We always have a good laugh together."

To come to a place like this with a bunch of girls, thanks to playing the game we love - it's pretty awesome.

Anna Leat

There was nonetheless evident and well-merited excitement about heading to this breathtaking archaeological site. Named in 2007 among the New7Wonders of the World, alongside the likes of the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China, Petra - half-built, half-carved into rock - more than lives up to its global reputation. "It's amazing to think it was all built so long ago," said goalkeeper Anna Leat, reflecting on estimates that the city dates back to 312 BC. "To come to a place like this with a bunch of girls, thanks to playing the game we love - it's pretty awesome."

Midfielder Aloisi Bloomfield, for her part, highlighted the beauty of the architecture, while Claudia Bunge was similarly impressed. "It's breathtaking and so different to back home," enthused the big defender.

And though the squad are returning to New Zealand sooner than they had hoped, they will do so with the fondest memories of Jordan and its people. Bolus also believes that, while football has remained their central focus, the players' off-field experiences have widened horizons - and opened a few eyes.

"It has been good to give them an appreciation of the country they're visiting, and going to the Dead Sea and Petra has definitely changed some of the pre-conceived views about what Jordan would be like," she said. "All of them have come away from these experiences saying how absolutely amazing the country is and how it's exceeded all their expectations.

"Petra was obviously a highlight. It's quite a long journey from Amman but well worth it, and our girls - as you'll have seen - are fantastic when it comes to amusing themselves. It would have been nice to have even longer there as it's such a wonderful place. But they still had some time to appreciate the beauty of it, wander around, ride a camel - I think everyone got on one - and do some haggling with the local sellers.

"And, of course," added Bolus with a smile, "there was plenty of singing on the way there and back!"