25 years ago, Mario Basler won the DFB Pokal with Werder Bremen. It was his first ever cup victory. In an interview with DFB.de, the 50-year-old European Championship winner spoke about the Final in 1994 and upcoming quarter-final between FC Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen (20:45 CEST, today).
DFB.de: Mr. Basler, what do you think of your ex-team Werder Bremen so far this season?
Mario Basler: Werder have been excellent so far this season. In Florian Kohfeldt they have a superb coach, who has just won an award. He has sparked something new in the team. It is a pleasure to watch Werder Bremen right now.
DFB.de: Werder don’t only play attractive football, the club’s ambitions are to get into Europe. How confident are you of this happening?
Basler: When you bring together a squad, you all need to have the same aim. I find it pleasing that Werder Bremen once again as a club as saying ‘we want Europe’. That speaks for the club.
DFB.de: There are two ways to get into Europe. One way is through the Bundesliga and the other way is by winning the cup. Werder Bremen will meet Schalke 04 in the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal. Who are your favourites?
Basler: For me today, Werder are the favourites. Schalke 04 have recently been fighting against relegation and beat Hannover 96 1-0 this weekend. I watched Werder play against Borussia Dortmund in the previous round. Werder played excellently and were tactically sound too, even though it was when Dortmund were having a dip in form. I think Bremen have a very realistic chance to get to the semi-finals.
DFB.de: At Werder, Max Kruse is the word on everyone’s lips. He is a player who has had his imperfections but is in top form at the moment. Does he resemble you a bit perhaps?
Basler: No. I think he had his imperfections three or four years ago. He is now captain at Werder Bremen. He has left the media eye as well. He has developed superbly at Werder and has made the next step. It is a pleasure to watch him play football.
DFB.de: You have written Pokal history with Werder and won it in 1994. What memories of the game do you have?
Basler: I remember I got taken off a little early and so I was a bit annoyed, especially as it was against my former club. But despite everything, we won the final 3-1 and I had scored a goal. It was also my first trophy.
DFB.de: The DFB-Pokal triumph in 1994 was the last trophy Werder Bremen won under head coach Otto Rehhagel. What was your working relationship like with Otto?
Basler: Everyone knows we had an extraordinarily good relationship. Otto allowed me to have a lot of freedom and it was fantastic for him to work so well with the players. He was worth gold dust for Werder Bremen. He spent fourteen years in Bremen as head coach and won several trophies with Werder. Otto was also always able to assemble brilliant, experienced teams during his time at the club.
DFB.de: You have spoken about your opponents in the 1994 DFB-Pokal final. Rot-Weiss Essen had already been relegated from the 2. Bundesliga so were fully concentrating on a potential DFB-Pokal triumph. You also played for the Ruhr club between 1989 and 1991. What memories do you have of your time in Essen?
Basler: I have fond memories looking back at a great club with great fans. Rot-Weiss Essen now play in a lovely stadium in the Regionalliga and around 6,000-7,000 fans watch each home match. It is a shame that this historic club is now playing in the fourth tier and are unable to return to their former glory days. Rot-Weiss Essen certainly deserve to be in playing in third tier, if not the 2. Bundesliga.
DFB.de: How difficult was it at the time, knowing that you entered the final as the clear favourites to lift the trophy?
Basler: That was easy as you were playing in a final and you knew what a match like this meant to you. Consequently, there were never any problems motivating yourself for the match. We also never contemplated that Werder Bremen were the clear favourites against Rot-Weiss Essen, who had been relegated from the second tier. We simply wanted to win the match and carried this mentality into the occasion.
DFB.de: Werder had a tough run to reach the 1994 DFB-Pokal, needing penalties on two occasions to get past Kickers Offenbach and 1. FC Kaiserslautern respectively. The Green-Whites also needed extra time to get past Stuttgarter Kickers. Nevertheless, the team came together and managed to progress in a memorable cup run.
Basler: This is still the case today as Werder often still require extra time and penalties to progress into the next round of the competition. Back then, we had the reputation of being a top cup team and managed to deliver some sensational performances in the DFB-Pokal.
DFB.de: Was the time at Werder Bremen between 1993 and 1996 the nicest part of your professional career?
Basler: I wouldn’t go to that extent. I had an incredible time at each of the clubs that I played for but it was at Werder Bremen that I got my chance to establish myself in the Bundesliga. I won my first title with Werder and won the golden boot. I also managed to break into the Germany national team. Shortly afterwards, I moved to FC Bayern München and that was yet another step up for me. Fundamentally, I felt comfortable at each of the clubs I played for and had a lot of fun at each of them.
DFB.de: Do you think Werder are capable of winning the DFB-Pokal this season?
Basler: Werder Bremen certainly have the opportunity to win the tournament. However, FC Bayern are also the clear favourites to win the tournament. Despite this status, everything is possible and Werder can win it should they reach the final. The favourite doesn’t always win, as we saw last year with underdogs Eintracht Frankfurt upsetting FC Bayern in Berlin.