Christoph Hemlein is a cup specialist. Third division side 1. FC Kaiserslautern’s captain has previously reached both the semi-final (2015) and the round of 16 (2017) of the DFB Pokal with Armenia Bielefeld. The 28-year-old attacker faces 1. FC Nürnberg in the second round of the competition on Wednesday 30th October. Hemlein speaks to DFB.de about his DFB Pokal success.
DFB.de: 1. FC Kaiserslautern are one of only two third division sides to reach the second round of the DFB Pokal this season. Your next opponent is 1. FC Nürnberg. Mr Hemlein, what was your first reaction when you were drawn against this side?
Christoph Hemlein: I was really looking forward to it. 1. FC Nürnberg are a great team to come up against; of course we are the underdogs but I still think we have a chance of progressing to the next round. For example, if we had be drawn against Bayern Munich or BVB, it would have been even more exciting. But of course, we also would’ve had a smaller chance of winning the game.
DFB.de: Your head coach Boris Schommers used to manage Nürnberg. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
Hemlein: Neither. It will definitely be a nice experience for our coach to come up against his former club, but I don’t believe it will make a difference. Nürnberg’s current squad is a lot different to the squad they had last season.
DFB.de: You managed to pick up a 2-0 home victory over FSV Mainz 05 in the previous round. What do you think will be important to progress against Nürnberg?
Hemlein: When you come up against a team from a higher division, it’s always important to work hard without the ball and to be clinical with your chances. We want to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible and hopefully take the lead. Then it will be difficult for Nürnberg to break us down.
DFB.de: You know the DFB Pokal very well. You’ve made 14 appearances in the competition already, winning nine of those games. Is that a statistic you’re fond of?
Hemlein: Yes definitely, especially for players who only play for second or third division sides. After beating so many teams from higher divisions, you can’t simply put it down to luck anymore. I love cup games.
DFB.de: You reached the semi-final with Arminia Bielefeld back in 2015, and the round of 16 in 2017. What memories do you have of them?
Hemlein: The 2014/15 season was particularly special. As a third division side, we managed to beat three Bundesliga sides in Hertha BSC, Werder Bremen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, before being beaten by VfL Wolfsburg who went on to win the competition. I will never forget that season; not only because of our success in the cup but also because we got promoted to the second division. It was one of the best years of my career. However, the 2013/14 season was just as successful when I was playing for Holland first division side NEC Nimegen; we also made it to the semi-final of the Dutch cup.
DFB.de: How upsetting was it to be knocked out of the competition so close to the final?
Hemlein: We were so close and of course we were dreaming of going to Berlin as a third division side to play in the cup final. However, against Wolfsburg the difference in quality was clear to see. After an even first half an hour, they managed to score two goals just before half time. After that we struggled to create any chances and we need to accept the victory. However, the match was a once in a lifetime experience. Our fans were celebrating for an hour after the game. It was an amazing feeling.
DFB.de: You’ve played in four penalty shoot-outs for Arminia in the DFB Pokal and won every time. You wouldn’t be afraid of a penalty shout-out against Nürnberg, would you?
Hemlein: (laughs) It’s true that penalties have been kind to me so far. We would prefer to win the game in normal time, but I wouldn’t mind winning on penalties either.