The pain of Spain

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

They came into the game as the highest scoring team in the tournament.

Yet last night Spain couldn't score against the Czech Republic until the 110th minute and it wasn't enough to get them through to the semifinal of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

Tomas Pekhart scored the decisive penalty to give the Czech Republic the shootout victory after the teams finished in a 1-1 deadlock.

"It was a good game," Pekhart said. "We thought Spain would be a lot better tonight because we played against them three years ago and they beat us 4-0.

"We did play well, but we were also a bit lucky."

Coming into the contest fresh off an impressive 4-2 win over Brazil, Spain was a heavy favourite to beat the Czechs in the quarter-final. The Czechs had gotten this far by virtue of a penalty shootout win over Japan in a game where they were down 2-0 late.

However Spain - the Under-19 European champions - did not show the flash of other tournament favourites and created very little in the first half where chances were few and far between.

"It's very tough to play against a team that doesn't want to come out and win," said Spain's head coach Gines Melendez. "Our team always came out to play. We passed the ball around, trying to get at the net, but when one team positions itself behind the centre line without coming forward it's very hard. They had one shot on net and scored on it. But what can you do? Soccer is like that sometimes."

NON-AGGRESSION PACT

The best chance of the first half came at the stroke of halftime as Juan Manuel Mata blasted a shot just over the bar.

Apart from that, it was though the teams signed a non-aggression pact at the beginning of the contest.

The Czechs sat back and waited for counter-attacking opportunities while Spain cautiously ventured forward.

"We thought we came out and tried to play a little bit more than they did," said Spanish defender Gerard Pique. "It's always tough when you lose in penalties. It's essentially a lottery and we're very upset to have been eliminated."

Things opened up a bit in the second half as Spain pushed forward albeit still cautiously, conscious of the Czech's dangerous counter-attack.

Adrian Lopez had the best chance, but missed what's referred to in soccer as a sitter in the 79th minute, hitting the post on a wide open net from three yards out.

Prior to that Martin Fenin had the best opportunity for the Czechs, getting up to a ball lofted to the far post by Lukas Kuban, but heading it across the net just wide.

The team's went into extra time scoreless.

Then in the first 15-minute extra time session, Spanish goalkeeper Adan came out to claim a corner kick but missed, leaving the net open as the ball fell to Lubos Kalouda. The midfielder hammered a shot from outside the box into the empty net to give the Czechs the lead.

However, Spain tied the game in the 110th minute as substitute Alberto Bueno bent a shot around goaltender Radek Petr which hit the post, only to have Adrian Lopez put away the rebound.

"At the end, luck wasn't on our side," Pique said. "There's not much you can do about that now. You just have to accept it and look towards the future."

ADVANTAGE CZECHS

In the penalty shootout, Marc Valiente hit the crossbar with Spain's third shot to give the Czechs the advantage. Pique then had his shot stopped to give the Czechs the win.

"Sometimes in soccer you have to accept that things don't always go your way," Pique said. "We felt we were the only team that intended to come out and play. But I think we have a lot of character on this team and we'll be able to move on from this."


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