The Germany U21s drew 1-1 with Austria in their final group stage game and as a result, booked a place in the semi-finals of the competition in Italy. Stefan Kuntz’s team also qualified for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. In an interview with DFB.de defender Benjamin Henrichs from AS Monaco spoke about the atmosphere within the team and his suspension for the semi-final.
DFB.de: Benjamin Henrichs, congratulations on qualifying for the semi-finals and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics! Has the team come to terms with making history?
Benjamin Henrichs: Thank you. After the final whistle, it took some time until we realised that we had qualified for the next round. We were all knackered after the really difficult game against a tough opposition. Austria demanded everything from us. On the bus ride back to the hotel, we realised the feat that we had achieved. Then the music flowed, we sang and partied. On Thursday, we want to take the next step and get to the final.
DFB.de: Why didn't you start celebrating properly until you were on the bus?
Henrichs: At first, we were feeling the after effects of the game. Sometimes, it took a while for it to sink in. Everyone in the team knows that we can put in a better performance than the one against Austria and that we will need to in the semi-final.
DFB.de: How would you describe the game against Austria?
Henrichs: Both teams made it difficult and the viewers were presented with a real fight. In the two games before, we were able to win convincingly and so it was important to show that we can fight hard in games too. We got ourselves in front thanks to a wonder-goal from Luca Waldschmidt and gradually got the game under control and even when they equalized, we were able to get back our rhythm. We are lucky to have such a class keeper in Alex Nübel, who made two or three superb saves to keep us in the game. In the end we got the hard-fought point we needed to get into the semi-finals.
DFB.de: You are suspended for the semi-final as you picked up your second yellow card of the tournament.
Henrichs: It’s very annoying of course. I didn’t want to waste time. If I threw the ball quickly, the opponents could have countered. Moreover, I wanted the change the ball because it felt a bit soft and so I had to wait. Now, unfortunately I can’t play in the semis. After the final whistle, we had a team talk and the lads said they wanted to get to the finals for me – so I can play one more game in the competition. That is a super gesture and shows how close we are. We have a strong squad there will be a superb replacement ready and waiting, like Maxi Mittelstädt.
DFB.de: Today you will see who Germany will face in the semi-final. Romania, France or Italy are the possible opponents. Do you have a preference?
Henrichs: As I play in France, I want to play the final against France. (laughs) no, to be honest: I don’t have a preference to who we play. We will watch the game between France and Romania and then we will know what to expect from our opponents. For the semi-final, we need to travel to Bologna or Reggio Emilia and then knuckle down for the next few days.###more###