Stech eyes EURO crown

Marek Stech is eager to emulate his hero Petr Cech by leading Czech Republic to UEFA European Under-21 Championship glory.

The young West Ham United goalkeeper has long idolised the Chelsea stopper, who helped the Czechs to win the tournament for the first and only time in their history in 2002.

Nine years on and Stech is in his country's squad for this summer's competition, which kicks-off in Denmark on Saturday 11 June.

The Czechs begin their Group B challenge by facing Ukraine on Sunday before taking on Spain on Wednesday 15 June and England on Sunday 19 June, with all three fixtures being held at the Viborg Stadium in Viborg.

The giant 21-year-old knows he and his compatriots face a tough challenge to reach the semi-finals, let alone follow in Cech's footsteps, but he is confident the Czech squad can make their mark.

"We've got Spain, Ukraine and England so it's a pretty hard group," Stech, who made three impressive Carling Cup appearances last season, told

"Hopefully I'll be playing and I'm looking forward to it. Obviously I'm sad that West Ham got relegated and that we didn't have the best season, but I'm really looking forward to the European Championship.

"I hope we can get through the group. It's a hard group, but anything can happen so hopefully we can qualify for the semi-finals."

The Czech Republic senior side failed to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and currently trail Spain by six points in 2012 UEFA European Championship qualifying Group I, so Stech is hoping the U21s can bring some success to what is a proud footballing nation.

"We have had a good run. We've won 15 or 16 games and drawn only two and haven't lost which is obviously good.

"It'll be hard to keep that run going, but we need to stick together and do the best that we can do and hopefully we can get out of the group.

"As Under-21s, we have always been lucky and hopefully we'll be lucky in this tournament as well."

The Czechs' final group fixture sees them take on England in a potentially vital match, and also throws up the possibility of Stech coming face to face with West Ham team-mate James Tomkins - a prospect which excites the goalkeeper.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Tonks. It'll be great if we're both playing as there will be some good competition between us if we play against each other."

Looking forward to next season, Stech intends to make his name at the club which brought him to England at the age of 16.

"I've been at West Ham for five years and the last season was a little bit up and down, but I might get more chances to play now we have been relegated," he admitted.

"I've got two years left on my contract so hopefully everything will be fine, I'll come back after the European Championship for pre-season and look forward to next season.

"I'm 21 but I played a few games last season and got some experience. Hopefully I'll get some games in pre-season. I'm feeling good, so we'll see what happens when I come back after the European Championship."