Germany U21s have their fate in their own hands going into their final group game at the Euros (vs. Romania on Tuesday at 18:00 CEST). Captain Arne Maier spoke to DFB.de about the 2019 semi-final against their upcoming opponents and what makes this current side stand out.
DFB.de: Mr Maier, let’s talk about the game against the Netherlands. What kind of analysis was done afterwards by the team and the coaching staff?
Arne Maier: We’ve looked back at the game, although we didn’t have much time as we’ve got to concentrate on Romania now. It was definitely a turbulent match, in which we showed how strong a team we are.
DFB.de: You’re alluding to the way the side reacted to going 1-0 down there?
Maier: The way we reacted to Finn’s mistake and built him back up afterwards, as well as the way we came back into the game, showed the special team spirit we possess. We were lacking a bit of precision in the final third – we want to improve on this against Romania.
DFB.de: Finding the right balance is still important, though. How can a team keep their defensive stability while becoming more dangerous offensively?
Maier: There isn’t a magic formula. The coaching team will give us tactics and tell us how to play, but it’s up to the players in the final third to be creative. We want to show this against Romania and secure our place in the quarterfinals.
DFB.de: The team has shown that they are capable of playing with different formations recently, using a four-man defence against Hungary and then setting up with a back three against the Netherlands. Does the side have a preferred formation?
Maier: Flexibility is one of the team’s strengths. This was the first time we played with a back three and it surprised the Dutch. We normally play with a back four and I personally prefer that, but a back three certainly isn’t bad (laughs).
DFB.de: How much does your role change depending on the different systems?
Maier: That obviously depends on what the coach wants from each player. I was quite high up the pitch against Hungary in the first half, but then dropped back in the second half. We had two defensive midfielders, two attacking midfielders and a striker on the pitch against the Netherlands, so it was quite a way forward for me that day. My role therefore changes depending on the formation.
DFB.de: You already mentioned the team’s reaction to going 1-0 down against the Dutch. What’s special about this U21s side?
Maier: Finn is a great footballer and mistakes like that happen. For me, it’s a given that the whole team would go to him and get behind him. To come from behind in such a difficult game and then even push for the winner just underlines the character this team has.
DFB.de: The Germany U21s are impressing as a side…
Maier: Exactly, you can only win as a team. Individuals and market values are not as important.
DFB.de: Next up is the game in Budapest. Romania seem like a familiar foe after the last tournament two years ago. You came on as a sub in that semi-final – what are your memories from that day?
Maier: Romania had a great team two years ago. They were good footballers but fighters too. They had two or three brilliant individuals as well.
DFB.de: And now?
Maier: I know they’ve got two players suspended. We’ll know more details on the opponents after we’ve analysed them. When we take on Romania, we all want the three points. We will play to win and we want to follow in the footsteps of the senior side.
DFB.de: You will win because…
Maier: ...we do the jobs that the coach wants us to on the pitch. Nothing shall stand in our way if we do this. We want to be compact at the back and score goals in attack.
DFB.de: Is there a difference between finishing second or winning the group?
Maier: It’s obviously nicer to win the group but our aim is just to qualify for the next round. It’s not that important how we achieve this. As Germany U21s, we have the confidence to say we will get the three points against Romania.