In their penultimate qualifying match, the German national team qualified for EURO 2020 by beating Belarus 4-0. Leon Goretzka scored the second goal in Mönchengladbach. In an interview on DFB.de, the 24-year-old midfielder talks about the development of the team and the last qualifier on Tuesday (20:45 CET) in Frankfurt against Northern Ireland.
DFB.de: Mr. Goretzka, congratulations on qualifying for EURO 2020. The 4-0 home win against Belarus was an easy task in the end. What was the key to success?
Leon Goretzka: Belarus sat deep in their own half, we knew they would do that and we prepared for it. We kept the opponent busy for a long time and we made the ball do the work which tired them out over the course of the game. Belarus closed the gaps really well, especially at the start of the match, but we knew that the longer the game went on, the more chances we would have and we had to take advantage of them. One key was to find gaps in the opponent's defensive line.
DFB.de: You used a gap yourself in the 49th minute when you scored to make it 2-0. It was your eighth goal in your 23rd international match for the team. How did it feel to score?
Goretzka: After grabbing the goal right before half time, it was important that we came out in the second half and looked to grab more, and we did well with that. We scored the goal at a good time. Toni (Kroos) had played a very nice pass into the box with a corner kick, Matze (Matthias Ginter) let it go cleverly because he saw that I was in a better position. In the end, creativity also played an important role: We executed the corner very thoughtfully and purposefully. In the end, everything went according to plan and it was a great result.
DFB.de: What does it mean to the team and to you to qualify for EURO 2020?
Goretzka: We had set ourselves the clear goal of winning both games before the last two European Championship qualifiers. The first game is now out of the way and because Northern Ireland and the Netherlands drew, we qualified. When you reach your goal, you are always happy. It’s nice to know that we will be at the European Championships in 2020. Nevertheless, we all know that we still have a long way to go in our development.
DFB.de: What do you mean exactly?
Goretzka: We’re not exactly where we want to be just yet. There is still a bit to do before the European Championships start next year. But I'm confident: The development of our team is going in the right direction, as you can see in every game. We want to build on that.
DFB.de: Where is the team at at the moment?
Goretzka: We are a young group who don’t have to much time left to gel before the tournament. We only have three international games until it starts now. We have to use every opportunity to take the next step in our development. We have to give everything we have in every game if we want to be successful.
DFB.de: In the final qualifier against Northern Ireland, the DFB team has the chance to win the group. Is this extra motivation for you?
Goretzka: Definitely. We will go full throttle from the first minute. We would like to win the game - especially in front of our home crowd, that would be a great way to finish European Championship qualification. In addition, the game is interesting for us from another point of view: Until EURO 2020, it is one of the few opportunities to continue to gel as a team - although a few boys are currently missing, due to injury or lack of match fitness. So in many ways, it doesn’t matter that we’ve already qualified or that we can win the group, it’s about getting together as a team and seeing what we can produce. Everyone from our team would like to be part of the EUROs squad.