Preparations began yesterday afternoon for the Germany U21s, with their last two qualifying matches for the 2019 European Championship in Italy and San Marino coming up this week. A win in either of the upcoming matches against Norway in Ingolstadt on Friday at 20:00 CEST or against Ireland in Heidenheim four days later at 18:15 CEST would guarantee Stefan Kuntz’s team finish at the top of their group.
Hertha BSC’s Arne Maier is the youngest in the team at just 19 years old, yet this will be the second time he joins up with the U21s during the international break. In an interview with DFB.de, Maier spoke to Editor Maximilian Schwartz about the quality of the team, the upcoming matches and Hertha’s season so far.
DFB.de: Arne Maier, after your first two games for the U21s in September against Mexico and Ireland, you’ve now been called-up for the second time. How would you describe the team atmosphere?
Arne Meier: It feels very familiar now. Everyone always looks forward to seeing each other again. It’s only my second time here but it feels like I’ve been around for a lot longer. Settling in was made very easy for me, and there’s a good mixture of relaxing and focussed work out on the pitch. We can go far with the enormous team spirit we have.
DFB.de: You’re the youngest in the team at just 19 years old. Is this obvious?
Maier: Yes, mainly through the fact that I have to always start in the middle when we play rondo (laughs). Other than that, every player is responsible and tries to bring their quality to the team as best as they can. Age doesn’t play a part.
DFB.de: As well as making your first appearances for the U21s, you’ve shown your vision and composure on the ball. Where does this stem from, considering your age?
Maier: I think it just comes to me a bit naturally. You can basically train everything, and that includes keeping your composure when on the ball. I’d like to spread that calmness to my teammates. I’ve always been confident because I enjoy having the ball at my feet. It’s better than having to win the ball back from the opposition. I try everything I can to constantly improve and make the right decisions out on the pitch.
DFB.de: This season at Hertha you’ve played the full 90 minutes in all your games, but when you were with the U21s back in September, you were substituted twice. What do you think about this?
Maier: We’ve started the season really well at Hertha. We’re in a good position in the table and we’re playing football that’s enjoyable to watch. If we continue this way, we can definitely go further than we did last season. It’s an incredible feeling to have played my first games for the U21s, and the results in these games (winning 3-0 against Mexico and 6-0 against Ireland) speak for themselves. Still, we want to press on and qualify for the European Championship in the best way possible, by winning our first match on Friday. I’ll give my all in training to earn a spot in this team.
DFB.de: The only defeat for the U21s during qualifying came against Norway, a 3-1 loss.
Maier: The game against Norway was almost a year ago. Since then we’ve really made a step forwards. We’ll be fully aware going into Friday’s game and don’t want to have any doubts cast on us. If everyone demonstrates their quality, and the substitutes who come on give us another dimension to our game, then we will emerge victorious. Our cohesion is the key to success.