MEDELLIN, Colombia (AP) – England was held to a 0-0 draw by North Korea on Friday in the opening game of the Under-20 World Cup.
England had the better chances with Saido Berahino, Matthew Phillips and Billy Knott coming close. Jong Il Gwan and Pak Song Chol probably had the best shots for North Korea, the under-19 Asian champions.
''I think our first-half performance was very good,'' England coach Brian Eastick said. ''We were the better team in the first 45 minutes. For a team that was only put together two weeks ago, I think their performance was very good. Our players in that dressing room are very disappointed we didn't win this game today.''
England is fielding an under-strength team, although most of the players are on the books of Premier League clubs. More than 30 other eligible players were withheld by their clubs for early season training.
Eastick said he understands the problem of scheduling the tournament, which would never suit every country. But he did question the clubs for withholding players, most of whom would be on reserve teams.
''The players who are not here are missing a fantastic opportunity,'' Eastick said.
North Korean coach Jo Tong Sop said he was content with the draw.
''We wanted to defend and counterattack,'' Jo said. ''We tried to concentrate on defending in the first half. We began attacking better in the second half but could not get a goal.''
England had the better chances in the first half with the North Koreans occasionally having sustained possession and looking threatening.
Berahino broke down the left side in the 29th and forced keeper Om Jin Song into pouncing on a loose ball. Jason Lowe, Phillips and Knott also came close. Knott missed two close-range headers, one just wide of the post in first-half injury time.
North Korea's top scorer Jong came closest for his side in the 44th with a shot from the left that keeper Jack Butland dived to save. Pak also had a chance with a blistering shot from the right side.
The tournament is being staged at eight venues in Colombia and ends Aug. 20.