In the Germany U21s’ team hotel in Fagagna, various motivational posters relevant to all the team’s European Championship matches have been put up. After overcoming the challenges presented by Austria, Denmark and Serbia in the group stage, the next task awaits in the semi-finals. “Never turn back after halfway,” is the motto that adorns the poster ahead of Thursday’s game against Romania (kickoff 18:00 CEST).
On Wednesday, Stefan Kuntz and his side travelled the three-and-a-half-hour bus journey from Fagagna to Bologna. Shortly after arrival, next on the schedule was the official UEFA press conference and training in the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, which is the venue for Thursday’s game and also hosted World Cup games in 1934 and 1990. Kuntz was joined by Bremen’s Maximilian Eggestein in front of the media as the pair claimed their opponents should not be underestimated and have earned their place in the semi finals due to strong performances. “The momentum is a little on their side – they are the surprise team of the competition,” said Kuntz. Romania qualified as they topped Group C ahead of France, England and Croatia.
The 56 year old sees Mirel Radoi’s side as an “awkward opponent”, that have an unorthodox style and try everything to cause their opposition to lose their game plan. “I’m excited and tense. These kinds of experiences are important for the players’ development, and they have to assert themselves.” Maximilian Eggestein highlighted the importance of the game to the team, “we’ve seen the attention that we’re receiving back in Germany. It fills us with pride to be able to play at this tournament and it would be all the more emotional if we could reach the final.” A video of the team celebrating reaching the semi final from the team bus went viral on social media and was viewed by almost two million users. “The video shows our team spirit, as every single player was celebrating. It didn’t matter whether they had played or not. Every single person is important for success,” said Eggestein.
Almost 13,000 Romanian fans are expected in Bologna on Thurday. “That will be like an away game for us and that isn’t normal,” said Kuntz. The fact that temperatures of up to 41 degrees are expected for the game is not an issue for the team. “If that were a safety issue for UEFA, they would intervene,” said Kuntz. “We have to stay hydrated and grit our teeth,” added Eggestein.