Under-fire Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf has apologised to outraged fans, but stands by his tactical approach in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Japan in Wellington.

Questioned about the New Zealand team’s ultra-defensive tactics after the match, Heraf said they could have lost 8-nil had they not done and added Japan was a team New Zealand would never be able to compete with.

Austrian-native Heraf said he didn’t explain his thoughts properly after the match.

“When I said we will never compete with a team like Japan, I didn’t mean we will never be able to beat them.

“I meant we will never have the same technical skills like a Japanese or Brazilian teams, but I’m convinced, and that is why I’m here, I know that we can compete and win against these teams.

Heraf’s comments led to former captain Abby Erceg breaking her silence on her second retirement from the Ferns.

With 132 games under her belt the team’s most-capped player ever, Erceg revealed her decision to retire from the team for a second time was a result of the coach’s tactical approach.

Erceg also called Heraf delusional about the ability of the Ferns players.

Asked about the former skipper’s impassioned comments, Heraf had a matter of fact response.

“She hasn’t spoken to me … she’s a fantastic football player but she’s made a decision not to play for New Zealand and we have to accept that.

“If now the decision is because she doesn’t like my style, then I don’t know why she retired the first time.

“If she retired the second time because of me and how I want to play, then that is her decision.”

As part of his apology for his post-match statements, Heraf also had a word for the record crowd that turned up to Sunday’s match.

A crowd of 7236 came to see the game, a record for women’s football in New Zealand, but many left disappointed by the dour and ultra defensive approach taken by the home side.

Heraf said the stage the team is at meant they weren’t able to put on a performance befitting of the historic occasion.

“For sure I considered that, and I feel sorry for the people who are disappointed but on the other hand we have never won a game at the World Cup. That means we have to change something.

“We don’t have the technical skills to dominate teams like Japan or Brazil or Germany on the world stage, we cant dominate them but we can beat them. But we have to beat them with our strengths.

“These strengths are tactics mad fitness and team spirit.”

– RNZ

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