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Japan loses heartbreaker in city FIFA finale

Czech Republic rallies from two-goal deficit, defeats Japan on penalty kicks

FIFA's Under-20 World Cup exited Victoria in grand fashion last night.

As if three penalty kicks weren't enough for the 11,400 soccer fans crammed into Royal Athletic Park, Japan and the Czech Republic decided to take few more.

And it wasn't until the 13th penalty kick of the night --10th in the shootout -- that the Czech Republic came away with a 3-2 win and a date with Spain in Saturday's quarter-final match in Edmonton.

In what was Victoria's swan song for the 2007 U-20 World Cup as games now move to Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto leading up to the July 22 final at BMO National Stadium in Toronto, the crowd-favourite Japanese, playing their fourth game at Royal Athletic Park after winning Group F, head home after losing the penalty shootout 4-3. While Czech keeper Peter Radek was stopping two Japanese shots in the shootout, teammate Tomas Oklestek beat Japanese keeper Akihiro Hayashi with the final penalty shot to send the Group D runners-up to the quarters.

Japan jumped out to a 2-0 lead courtesy a Tomoaki Makino header in the 22nd minute and the game's first penalty kick in the second minute of the second half, which Yasuhito Morishima made no mistake with.

But the bigger, stronger Czechs -- with 10 players standing taller than 5-foot-7 -- wouldn't go quietly.

In the 73rd minute they awoke when Colombian referee Hernando Buitrago, who had his hands full all night in a surprisingly physical match, awarded the Czechs their first spot-shot. Masato Morishige stepped up and beat Hayashi with little trouble. And then Japanese captain Yohei Fukumoto was called for a foul at the edge of the box and substitute Jakub Mares stepped to the spot and buried it to draw the Czechs even.

And just when it looked like the Czechs were going to ride their momentum to a regulation-time win, Mares picked up his second yellow card of the game and was sent off at the 84th minute, leaving the Czechs no choice but to defend like crazy. And that they did.

The fleet-footed, technically amazing Japanese side dominated the opening 45 minutes and opened the scoring just 22 minutes in when defender Tomoaki Makino headed home a cross from Atomu Tanaka. Colombian referee Hernando Buitrago awarded the Japanese a penalty kick in just the second minute of the second half and Yasuhito Morishima made no mistake in hammering it by Radek to give the 'home team' a 2-0 lead.

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