Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, left, is challenged by New Zealand's Michael Boxall during the Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match between New Zealand and Portugal, at the St. Petersburg Stadium, Russia, Saturday, June 24, 2017.
Hosts Russia sit in third place in the group, one point behind both Mexico and Portugal.
It was their first goal in 555 minutes of Confederations Cup football, but Mexico's Raul Jimenez and Oribe Peralta struck in the second half as the Kiwis faded.
Mexico came from a goal down to claim a 2-1 win over host nation, Russian Federation in Kazan thanks to a goal in each half by Nestor Araujo and Hirving Lozano.
New Zealand's concluding game of the tournament taking place in St Petersburg this evening did not stop All Whites striker Chris Wood enjoying a victory for his country's rugby union heroes over the British and Irish Lions in the first Test.
The Russians had plenty of chances, but poor finishing kept them from earning a better result.
"We can't play a game of this magnitude being afraid of losing", Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado said. "We are making steps in the right directions". An owl goal was the eventual victor, but Fyodor Smolov struck home a second half goal to seal it.
"Portugal always played well otherwise we wouldn't be European champions".
New Zealand's next competitive game will be in more familiar surroundings against an opponent they ought to beat - the Solomon Islands in a two-legged Oceania final as part of World Cup qualifying.
Portugal is a heavy favourite to make it back-to-back victories on Saturday and progress as group winners but Santos was impressed by the efforts of tournament outsiders New Zealand in its battling 2-1 loss to Mexico.
The hosts' pressure soon told, though, as the opening goal arrived after 25 minutes. It looks like he's gone for the first option - he's deploying two up front with Fedor Smolov and Aleksandr Bukharov, and has brought Aleksandr Erokhin into midfield.
Mexico were level within five minutes, however, as Araujo looped a header across goal that deceived Akinfeev and nestled into the net.
And they nearly gave themselves a lifeline just before the hour, as Doyle flashed a sensational ball into the six-yard box for Chris Wood, whose eventual effort was crucially blocked by Bruno Alves. "We know we have great chances of advancing".
The hosts wanted a penalty after Zhirkov fell inside the area in the sixth minute, but he was barely touched by the Mexican defender and the referee let the play continue.
However, the guidelines have proved hard to enforce in some countries, particularly Spain and Italy where teams continue to demand that opponents kick the ball out if one of their players is injured - whether it be genuine or not.