But the Young All Whites are still very much in the running to progress past the pool stages and share the Group D lead with USA, who are equal on both points and goal difference. Czech Republic and the group’s other side, Uzbekistan, are also on three points, leaving the group wide open with a match to play.
New Zealand may well have been outright leaders had it not been for the heroics of Zima, who pulled off a string of brilliant saves to deny the Young All Whites and earn his side its first victory of the tournament.
New Zealand coach Aaron McFarland was disappointed with the result but not with the manner of the performance.
“It’s a sweet and sour feeling really,” he said.
“It was disappointing to lose but it’s not just about the result in these tournaments, how we play is also important. In the first half, we seemed a bit frightened of playing and gave the ball away too easily but we turned it around in the second half and took what we have been doing at training out onto the pitch.”
The Czechs, needing a win to get their campaign back on track after a disappointing 3-0 loss to USA in their opening outing, shaded the possession stakes in an entertaining first half and were able to carve out the better opportunities.
It was New Zealand who had the best chance of the early stages though, Tim Payne heading narrowly wide from a Cameron Howieson cross in just the second minute.
But that turned out to be the closest they would come in the first period as the Czechs began to take control in the stifling 39 degree heat. After threatening on a couple of occasions, Josef Csaplar’s charges hit the lead in the 28th minute, and the goal was most certainly worthy of the World Cup stage, Julis rifling an unstoppable volley past goalkeeper Scott Basalaj from over 20 yards.
Knowing a point could prove crucial in such a tight group, the Young All Whites created more chances in an impressive second-half showing but were frustrated time and again by Zima.
The custodian’s first moment of magic arrived in the 57th minute when he pulled off a great save from Stephen Carmichael, a hat-trick hero in New Zealand’s historic 4-1 win over Uzbekistan, and he was in fine form again in the 69th minute to keep out Tim Payne’s curling effort.
New Zealand began to pile on the pressure as the clock ticked down but Zima would not be beaten. He dived at the feet of Payne to deny the striker once more in the 85th minute and pulled off yet another outstanding stop in injury time after Payne played a one-two with substitute James Debenham and fired off a shot that looked bound for Zima’s top corner.
McFarland felt Payne, Basalaj and captain Luke Adams were New Zealand’s stand-out performers but was pleased with the efforts of each of his men, particularly in that improved second-half showing.
“Even though we have lost, I think this was in some ways better than the Uzbekistan performance,” he said. “That was more the classic New Zealand style of hitting on the break, whereas in the second half today we actually dominated possession and that’s a great sign for us.”
FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011
Group D
Estadio Torreon
Torreon, Mexico
New Zealand 0
Czech Republic 1 (Lukas JULIS 28’)
Halftime: 0-1
New Zealand: 1-Scott BASALAJ (gk), 2-Harshae RANIGA, 3-Stephen CARMICHAEL (11-James DEBENHAM 67’), 4-Reece LAMBERT, 5-Luke ADAMS (c), 6-Jordan VALE (14-Ryan HOWLETT 81’), 8-Rhys JORDAN, 9-Tim PAYNE, 10-Cameron HOWIESON (11-James DEBENHAM 77’), 12-Jesse EDGE (Harley TAHAU 84’), 16-Bill TUILOMA.
Substitutes not used: 13-Cameron MARTIN, 15-Dylan STANSFIELD, 19-Ken YAMAMOTO, 20-Scott ARMISTEAD (rgk), 21-Liam ANDERSON (rgk).
Coach: Aaron McFARLAND
Cautions: Cameron HOWIESON 74’
Czech Republic: 16-Lukas ZIMA (gk), 2. Ondrej KARAFIAT, 5. Lubos ADAMEC, 6-Michael LUEFTNER, 7-Ales CERMAK (19-Michal TRAVNIK 95’),8- Jindrich KADULA, 9-Nikolas SALASOVIC, 10- Lukas JULIS, 15-Jan STERBA (c), 18. Marek STRADA (4-Petr NERAD 82’), 20. Daniel CERNY (Patrik SVOBODA 59’).
Substitutes not used: 1-Patrick MACEJ (rgk), 21-Ondrej KOLAR (rgk), 3-Jan FILIP, 12-Lukas STRATIL, 13-Patrik KUNDRATEK, 14-Dominik SPAVELKO, 17-Dominik MASEK.
Coach: Josef CSAPLAR
Cautions: Jindrich KADULA 32’, Jan STERBA 52’, Lubos ADAMEC 72’
FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011
June 18 – July 10
New Zealand v USA
Estadio Hidalgo
Pachuca, Mexico
June 25, 6pm (June 26, 11am NZT)