The Football Ferns most-capped player Abby Erceg has slammed under-fire coach Andreas Heraf as "delusional" and the main reason for her decision to retire for a second time from the international game.
Austrian-native Heraf, who is also New Zealand Football's techincal director, has been the target of heavy criticism after the Football Ferns 3-1 loss to Japan in a friendly match in Wellington on Sunday.
The home team played in an ultra-defensive manner in front of a record crowd for women's football in New Zealand of 7236.
After the game, Heraf said they could have been beaten 8-0 had they not played that way and also revealed his belief Japan were a team the Ferns will never have the quality to compete with.
The comments have caused outraged with many in the Kiwi football community and resulted in Erceg breaking her silence over her second retirement from the Ferns last month.
"You can see how I couldn't stand to wear that fern on my chest any more when his (Heraf) vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much," she told Stuff from the United States, where she plays professionally.
"I don't work my butt off to get to Olympics or World Cups to not get beat by too much."
Erceg, who racked up 132 caps during a 12-year career with the Ferns, cited a lack of support for the team from the national body when she first retired in February last year.
The 28-year-old chose to return to the fold in February this year, believing NZF's attitude had changed, but stepped away again after the team's two-match tour to Spain early last month.
Heraf's comments on Sunday had opened the door for Erceg to reveal what had motivated that latest decision.
"I think Andreas' character and mindset is already on show, and will only continue to be put out there as he spends more time in charge," she told Stuff.
"If people are up in arms already then that speaks volumes, I think.
"I think his comments in the media also show his delusional state of mind regarding the ability of the players and he will take two steps back for every step we've taken forward in the past eight years."
Heraf made his post-match comments after the loss to Japan when a reporter questioned him over whether his team had played with a mindset that was too negative.
"You could lose 8-0 against a team like they are. It's not a negative mindset, it's a smart one.
"We were working on not conceding too many goals and I think, to be honest, conceding three goals against Japan is okay.
"I don't like it, because I want to play to nil, but we conceded three goals, but if you're honest we could concede five, six, seven or eight, and then it would be really interesting what you would tell me here if we conceded six, seven or eight."
Japan are ranked 11th in the world, just nine places ahead of the world No 20 Football Ferns.
Heraf joined NZF as technical director in August last year, before taking over the Ferns when former head coach Tony Readings stepped down in November.