Oliver Bierhoff, director of the national team and DFB Academy, spoke about the development within Die Mannschaft ahead of the EURO qualification match against the Netherlands in Hamburg on Friday (20:45 CEST).
…the rebuild within the national team: The process began at the start of the year and has been positive so far, with a crucial result in the previous match against the Netherlands (Ed. Note: A 3-2 victory to start Germany’s EURO qualification campaign in March). Aside from being an important three points, it also helped build our self-confidence as we have a young team that still need to find themselves, in addition to individual players who need to mature. The aftermath of the World Cup was not an easy time for everyone: young players, who were not to blame, still had to live with the negative after-effects. The matches in June helped build us up again. The team’s mindset was in the right place to help us keep the level of intensity needed even at the end of the season, and to remain focused and disciplined against weaker opponents. We’re now awaiting another difficult test in front of a sold-out crowd in Hamburg, which is exactly the environment that we need.
… the upcoming matches: It will be extremely difficult. For the Netherlands, it’s a chance for them to get back to track. It’s difficult to make a prediction at the start of the season, but we’re playing at home and are full of confidence. At the same time, we know that it will not be an easy match and that we have some injuries at the moment. You could feel how excited the players were to arrive here for this match.
… the possibility of achieving early EURO qualification: It would be nice if we were able to do that. There’s always two ways of looking at things. On the one hand, it’s always good to have that pressure, but on the other hand, you can show real character by not letting off even without the added pressure. It wouldn’t make a difference for us either way, but it would be a clear sign to everyone else if we were able to qualify early. We know that we still need time. Players will still need to pick up more experience with their clubs, where they will continue to take on more important roles.
…Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt: Both are incredibly mature for their age, and will have to take that crucial next step not just within the national team, but within their clubs as well. Kai is a firm presence in Leverkusen. At some points, you could feel that it was almost too much for him to handle. He needs to use this season in order to meet the demands that have been set for him. He has the quality to do so. He needs to work towards being the type of player who brings his quality to the team. Julian’s progress has been great, and he has been able to make a mark after being subbed on in several international appearances for us. He’s always very professional and positive. The level of competition within the Dortmund squad is something different – it’s important that he takes on this challenge and continues to use his talent to help out the team.
… a replacement for Leroy Sané: One thing that makes our players so strong, is the fact that they can feature at many different positions. We may not have a typical centre-forward, but instead have several agile, dynamic players with a strong technical ability who are able to replace Leroy Sané. We have enough options.
… the FIFA world rankings: We’re in the midst of a rebuild, which is why you cannot say that we should be guaranteed to be part of the top four. Other teams have caught up to us, but somehow we always manage to keep our place amongst them. In addition to becoming attuned to one another, it will be important that we remain focused during those key moments and don’t make any mistakes.