Czechs rally to shock Japan
© Foto-net

Ten-man Czech Republic rallied bravely from two goals down and then held their nerve in a penalty shootout to claim victory over Japan on a sultry evening in Victoria on 11 July. Tomas Oklestek hit the decisive penalty after goalkeeper Radek Petr saved two in the shootout on a day that saw three scored from the spot in a regular time that ended 2-2.

The Czechs had the better of the early exchanges, even hitting the post from an acute angle in the opening moments, but in the 22nd minute unmarked central defender Tomoaki Makino headed home a corner to send the Japanese into the lead. The second half started off the best possible way for the Group F winners as Yasuhito Morishima converted a penalty just two minutes after the restart. With the match seemingly well in hand, the Japanese were unprepared for the explosion of drama in the last 15 minutes of regular time as first Ondrej Kudela and then Jakub Mares converted from the spot in the 74th and 77th minutes respectively. Eight minutes after his goal, half-time substitute Mares was sent off for his second yellow card, leaving his team short-handed for extra time.

Yosuke Kashiwagi hit the bar from a free kick in the 105th minute, but the Europeans held on for dear life to reach the shootout, where they held their nerve to earn a place in the last eight against Spain in Edmonton on 14 July. The Japanese, who have been in Victoria for the entire tournament, make the trip home with their heads held high.