On 6th February (20:45 CET), FC Schalke 04 and Fortuna Düsseldorf meet for the eighth time in the DFB-Pokal. In the previous games, Schalke went through three times, with Fortuna prevailing twice. Currently, Schalke are just ahead of Fortuna in the Bundesliga table. 65-year-old Düsseldorf coach Friedhelm Funkel won the cup with Bayer Uerdingen in 1985, and sat down with us ahead of the upcoming game.
DFB.de: Mr Funkel, what does the cup mean to you and Fortuna? Is it a welcome distraction from the league, or a competition where anything is possible?
Friedhelm Funkel: It’s not a nice distraction, it’s a competitions that’s worth a lot to all of us. The DFB-Pokal is a really good competition and we try to get as far as we can every year. However, it depends on the draw a bit. Now we have a difficult away game against Schalke. But you always say that anything is possible in the cup, there are no set rules. We want to keep the game against Schalke open for as long as possible, and then progress into the next round.
DFB.de: Has anything changed in the build-up to the match due to winning a few games in the Bundesliga and pulling away from the relegation zone?
Funkel: No, we’re still under pressure. We have some difficult games coming up and we’re definitely not safe in the Bundesliga. The upturn in form doesn’t mean anything. It’s a nice snapshot to look at the table at the moment, but we still need a few wins to stay up.
DFB.de: How do you rate your chances going into the game?
Funkel: Schalke are the clear favourites. That’s not even in question when you look at the difference between the values of players. Schalke are the current Bundesliga runners-up and play in the Champions League. That’s very different to us. But we’ve shown that we can compete against Schalke in the Hinrunde. Unfortunately we didn’t score a goal but we were unlucky to lose 2-0. That shows the class of the team. We’re not fearful, but the respect is there. We’re underdogs every time we play away, but underdogs often get chances.
DFB.de: Will you be practising penalties in the run up to the game?
Funkel: No, we won’t be. You can’t practise those situations. When you play 120 minutes in front of 60,000 fans, you’re shattered. We have our penalty takers. If it gets to that point, we’ll choose the takers from the players on the pitch at that time.
DFB.de: You’ve experienced a lot in the DFB-Pokal and you beat Schalke 6-0 on your way to the final in 2005 as manager of Eintracht Frankfurt. Do you mention things like this in your team talks?
Funkel: No, that’s too long ago so I won’t say anything. We were at home back then as well. That was a great moment for Eintracht Frankfurt, but it doesn’t count for anything now. We’ll prepare extensively for the game and we’re looking forward to it. Maybe one or two players will get a chance to prove themselves in the game. We’re going into the last 16 very focussed.
DFB.de: You haven’t only won 6-0, you’ve also lost 8-0 to Bayern when you were at Köln.
Funkel: And I lost 9-2 in Mönchengladbach with Bayer Uerdingen. I’ve had a lot of strange results in the cup. That’s what the competition is about. If you’re a second division side and get Bayern in a mood like they were that day, they score six, seven, or eight goals. We recovered from that at Köln and later went up to the Bundesliga.
DFB.de: You won the cup as a player at Uerdingen, and you’ve been in the final as a coach twice with MSV Duisberg and Eintracht Frankfurt. Did you enjoy the finals better as a player or as a coach?
Funkel: As a player you can enjoy it more, and as a coach you have other things to do. You have to go to the press conference, prepare the players for the game and start conversations. As a player, you don’t have to.
DFB.de: When you won the final against Bayern 2-1 with Uerdingen, it was the first time that the final took place in Berlin. Since then, the Olympic Stadium is the regular venue. Did you think it could be at the time?
Funkel: I remember that it was around 32 degrees. The stadium had a great atmosphere. Having the final in Berlin every year is already seen as one of the best decisions the DFB have made. It has proven to be over the years.
DFB.de: You were born in Neuss, so you’ve followed Fortuna for many years. What is typical Fortuna for you?
Funkel: Typical Fortuna are unpredictable. They were very good at times and then went bad. They even went down to the third division and then came back up again. Fortuna haven’t had the stability that other teams have had, that’s why they’ve only been in the Bundesliga twice in the last 25 years. We want to get some stability going. We want to play in the Bundesliga more often in the future so everything’s a little more consistent.
DFB.de: Fortuna Düsseldorf have been in the DFB-Pokal final seven times – will you be thinking about this?
Funkel: Unfortunately, everything that happened in the past isn’t relevant anymore, even if it was a few weeks, months, or years ago. The here and now is what counts. We want to have a good game away at Schalke, then let’s see what we get out of it.###more###