Two new-comers in Stefan Kuntz' squad for the U21s two European qualifiers; Florian Müller and Salih Özcan. The keeper for FSV Mainz 05 and midfielder for 1. FC Köln will be available for selection for the games against Israel and Kosovo, which take place on Thursday 22nd March and Tuesday 27th March. The players are currently fighting relegation for their respective clubs but will be hoping to bolster the U20s campaign, as the team looks to qualify for the European Championship 2019 in Italy and San Marino.
“Straight away you notice how close-knit this group is,” said Salih Öczan. “The boys make it easy for you to settle in though. I know a few players from other Germany youth teams I have been a part of.” The 20-year-old already boats plenty of experience with Germany youth teams, having played from the U15s all the way through to the U20s. “This challenge will obviously be something very different,” said the man from Köln. “My family is going to be in the stadium tomorrow and I will be really proud to play for this team.”
Öczan has played 21 times for Köln in the current Bundesliga season, including five appearances in the Europa League and two in the DFB-Pokal. “We know that every game in the Bundesliga is like a final for us and we’re doing everything we can to stay up. Now however I am only concentrating on the next few days and the Euro qualifiers,” said the midfielder.
Florian Müller is equally as concentrated on the task ahead of the U21s. According to the Mainz keeper, the first few training sessions are all about taking on board what is expected of you as part of this national squad and getting used to the team. “Goalkeeping coach Klaus Thomforde and Stefan Kuntz talk a lot with the players which has made integrating into this team a lot easier,” explained Müller who has played the last three games for Mainz.
After making a sensational debut against Hamburg, chock full of fine saves earning Mainz the draw, he made a clear and obvious mistake last weekend in Frankfurt. “I was fully aware that every game wasn't going to be like my debut,” said the 20-year-old. “It was my mistake but now I need to move on and keep working on my game. With good performances I want to help the team stay up.”
Florian Müller has already been a part of U19 and U20 squads for DFB but was out injured for a long part of last season. “It was a difficult time. Now however, I am all the more capable of fighting for my place, which I had to do to earn my last three Bundesliga performances. The fact I have been called up to the U21s makes me very proud.”