Germany U21s begin 2019 with two friendlies against fellow European Championship participants France (Thursday, 18:30 CET) and England (Tuesday, 26th March, 20:45 CET). In an interview with DFB.de, VfB Stuttgart defender Timo Baumgartl spoke about the two tough forthcoming matches ahead of the tournament as well as a special visit during the first training session in Düsseldorf.
DFB.de: Timo Baumgartl, the Manuel Neuer Kids foundation visited the squad during the first training session together in Düsseldorf. The kids didn’t just enjoy having photos taken with you but also you trained together and gave tips to the aspiring footballers. Did you enjoy their visit?
Timo Baumgartl: The visit was a lovely action for everyone involved. The children enjoyed just as much as the players did. It is amazing when we are able to help others enjoy football.
DFB.de: For the last two-and-a-half years, the Germany U21s have been constantly supporting a variety of charitable projects, visiting clubs or inviting visitors from social organisations. How important are such actions to you?
Baumgartl: I think they are very important. Us footballers live in a bubble where everything is done for us. We therefore cannot lose our standpoint on reality and always need to be aware that there are people in the world who are sadly not as fortunate as we are. Without going out of our way too much, we have been able to give these children from socially deprived backgrounds an enjoyable experience at training. I think it is a great initiative that the U21s have started and long may it continue.
DFB.de: This first training session in Düsseldorf marked the start of preparations ahead of these tough friendlies. These matches against France and England provide you with the last opportunity to prepare for this summer’s European Championships in Italy and San Marino. For head coach Stefan Kuntz, these matches are “true indicators."
Baumgartl: Yes exactly and I view the matches in exactly the same way. We want to do everything necessary and try a few things out during the training sessions together ahead of the friendlies. This is what the final friendlies are there for ahead of the European Championship. As always, we are approaching these matches with excitement but also staying relaxed. We might test a couple of systems and maybe a couple of new ideas for our style of play too. The end result is not what everything is about in these friendlies. Rather we need to have the knowledge that we can win matches at the tournament this summer. Of course we would prefer to win these matches too but that isn’t the priority.
DFB.de: On Thursday you and your team face France in Essen. What are you expecting from the game?
Baumgartl: France is a great footballing nation, their first team are the defending world champions. The U21 squad also has enormous quality, with players like Diallo and Mateta from the Bundesliga, but we also have a very good team so I’m expecting an even game. It will definitely be a really good game for the spectators and we’re looking forward to this game against the European championship favourites.
DFB.de: Two leading U21 players in Maxi Eggestein and Lukas Klostermann have been nominated for the first team. Several others from Löw’s selection are also eligible to play for the U21s – Jonathan Tah and Thilo Kehrer for instance. How will these players be replaced?
Baumgartl: First and foremost we are obviously pleased for the lads who have made the leap into the senior team. As for their roles in the U21s, these always get taken up by different players at some point, which they can benefit from of course. We’ve always managed this as a team quite well, but it would obviously be great if these players returned to the U21s again. The boost they will have got from their selection would surely help us in the tournament.
DFB.de: You’re currently in a relegation battle with VfB Stuttgart. To what extend does this play on your mind whilst with the Germany U21s?
Baumgartl: We U21 players are usually very good at putting our club duties on hold mentally. In my case in particular it’s especially important for me to get some match practice and return to form. I was injured for a while, and I now want to use training and games with Germany to return to a point where I can help VfB in the relegation battle for the last stretch of the season