Czechs pay penalty

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

The standings suggest they're on equal footing as the group stage of the FIFA U-20 World Cup nears its conclusion.

But North Korea and the Czech Republic face a very different road ahead after their entertaining 2-2 draw in front of 22,200 fans at Frank Clair Stadium last night.

Both sides have a pair of points to show for their efforts so far in the tournament. But neither has yet guaranteed itself a berth in the second round, meaning all is on the line when the final Group E matches are played Friday.

Clearly, though, the Czechs have the more desirable path, facing Panama at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The North Koreans, meanwhile, must figure out a way to manufacture at least a point -- or more -- against five-time champion Argentina at Frank Clair.

"We cannot say that we have no chance," said North Korea coach Jo Tong Sop through a translator. "If we give ourselves a chance, we can proceed to the next stage."

The Czechs know the job isn't done, either. While the top two in each of six groups moves on to the second round, only four of the third-place finishers advance.

"If we win (Friday) and certain other scores favour us, we can advance," said Czech coach Miroslav Soukup.

After an inspired second half of play, the Czechs seemed to have three points sewn up -- and almost sure progression to the next phase -- with a 2-1 lead. But when Kwang Ik Jon was hauled down in the penalty area in the 89th minute, the Koreans were awarded a penalty kick.

Czech goalkeeper Radek Petr made a diving stop, but an alert Jon buried the rebound for the equalizer.

Afterward, Soukup didn't contest the call.

"Sometimes, different things happen in football," he said. "We accept it and we don't complain."

STRESTIK DOESN'T START

North Korea opened the scoring in the 12th minute, when star forward Kum Il Kim curled a shot into the far corner of the net. It ended a 192-minute stretch of scoreless soccer at this venue in the U-20 World Cup.

The Czechs, who'd curiously left midfielder Marek Strestik out of their starting lineup, substituted him in to start the second half. It seemed to be the tonic the Czechs needed to fire up their attack.

In the 46th minute, Lubos Kalouda equalized on a low shot from just outside the 30-yard box that eluded Korean keeper Kwang Min Ju.

Then, 10 minutes later, Strestik fed Ondrej Kudela, who fired a sharp cross to the front of the goal that a sliding Martin Fenin volleyed home with his right boot.


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