New Zealand's proud players hope their performances at the World Cup will be a turning point for women's football in the country despite the pain of an early exit.

Some of the team were in tears as the tournament co-hosts bowed out on Sunday in the group stage in front of a sell-out 25,000 crowd in Dunedin.

Their 0-0 stalemate with Switzerland meant they finished on four points along with Norway, but the Norwegians went into the last 16 with the Swiss thanks only to a better goal difference.

It was not the ending the Football Ferns wanted but they have still broken records for the game in the traditionally rugby-mad country.

They opened the tournament with a stunning 1-0 win over former champions Norway -- New Zealand's first win at a men's or women's World Cup.

That landmark victory was played out in front of more than 42,000 at a sell-out Eden Park in Auckland -- a record crowd for football in New Zealand.

A subsequent shock loss to the Philippines and the draw with Switzerland was not enough and many of the players were distraught afterwards.

But the disappointment soon gave way to pride and hope for the future of football in the country.

Captain Ali Riley, a veteran of five World Cups -- none of which brought a win -- said she didn't feel as shattered emotionally as she had following the team's previous early exits.

"I've left the other tournaments and the Olympics feeling so down," the US-based defender told reporters.

"Feeling like I don't know if we can turn around and I don't know what the future of this programme is going to look like.

"Right now I just feel pride."

The Football Ferns' three games were all sold out and local media responded too.

Even the country's iconic men's rugby team, the All Blacks, were shunted down to second-tier status in sports bulletins.

Former women's international Kristy Hill told Radio New Zealand she sensed the interest wouldn't be temporary.

"Going into this tournament New Zealanders didn't know women's football," she said.

"They kept calling the Football Ferns the White Ferns (the women's cricket team).

"These girls weren't household names and all of a sudden that changed at Eden Park. 

"I wanted them to get to the next stage, but as far as winning the hearts and minds of the country, they did that."

Baby steps

New Zealand's women's team is ranked 26th in the world and expectations of what they could do on home turf had not been high.

They suffered a dire run of one win in 12 games leading into the tournament.

Coach Jitka Klimkova, the former Czech international, is mid-way through a six-year contract and expected to continue in the post.

She believes her team's campaign has set up future success.

"Now New Zealand understands who the Football Ferns are," she said.

"I think being patient and taking the baby steps we're taking now and just improving step by step, that's how we want to approach our journey.

"This team has huge talents, lots of young players that will have another opportunity to play at World Cups and Olympics.

"Our performances here were solid, and that's what we will build on."