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Czechs back England to keep Rio dream alive

With their Olympic hopes in England's hands, the Czech Republic, hosts of the U21 EURO, will be cheering on Gareth Southgate's men against Italy on Wednesday.

Czech Republic hope England will keep them on course for Rio
Czech Republic hope England will keep them on course for Rio ©Getty Images

England will have an additional 10 million fans when they face Italy on Wednesday with the Czech Republic hoping Gareth Southgate's men will keep their Olympic dream alive.

Despite a superb display at the Eden Stadium on Tuesday, Jakub Dovalil's tournament hosts had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Germany that took their opponents through to the last four and left the Czechs' fate in English hands.

They require Southgate's side to finish in the top two in Group B to set up a play-off for a place at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and so the Czech squad will join their compatriots in cheering on England in Olomouc.

"We are definitely going to support England – we are all going to watch it together as a team," midfielder Martin Frýdek told UEFA.com ahead of what promises to be a nail-biting night. "We will wish England to win, but as we have seen during the whole tournament, every team can defeat the other or draw with them. So I think it will not be an easy task for the English."

"Who would not their cross fingers for them?" Czech defender Tomáš Kalas explained. "You can bet on it we'll all be supporting them."

Highlights: Czech Republic 1-1 Germany
Highlights: Czech Republic 1-1 Germany

At Chelsea since 2010, Kalas has more reason than most to support England, who need a win to guarantee their own place in the semi-finals. Given England will not send a team to Rio, that would gift the Czech Republic the opportunity to stamp their ticket for Brazil by beating the third-placed team in Group B in Uherske Hradiste on Sunday.

"Yes, I have a few friends there, one central defender played with me in Middlesbrough and two central midfielders I know from Chelsea," said Kalas, referring to Boro man Ben Gibson and Blues team-mates Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. "But I am not going to call them, they cannot influence that themselves, but it would be really nice if they won, helping us along with their success."

A place in Rio would be a boon for the 23-man squad, who would become only the second Czech team to qualify for an Olympic Games following the side that exited in the group stage in Sydney in 2000. They would also be assured of their entire nation's support in South America as the Czech Republic's only participant in a team sport.

"We have to try to be the ones who will qualify," said Kalas, whose predecessors in the 2011 tournament in Denmark were beaten by Belarus in the Olympic Games play-off. "This could be a good chance to make history."