The final game of the season, the last game for both coaches. But Saturday night's DFB Pokal final will not be played under sombre circumstances; there is too much at stake for that. Bayern coach Jupp heynckes and his counterpart at Eintracht Niko Kovac are both looking forward to the special atmosphere at the Olympiastadion. In this interview with DFB.de, 73-year-old Heynckes and 46-year-old Kovac give their thoughts on their chances in the Cup final, their farewells to their clubs and their personal highlights from this season’s DFB Pokal.
DFB.de: Mr Heynckes, your final game in charge of FC Bayern Munich will be watched by 75,000 spectators in the Olympiastadion, and by my many millions on TV. Could you have wished for a better farewell game?
Jupp Heynckes: The DFB Pokal final is certainly a wonderful highlight, just as the Champions League final would have been. I’m definitely looking forward to contesting the final in Berlin with my team and coaching staff. Experiencing the atmosphere created by the two fan blocks in the stadium is a unique experience.
DFB.de: You come from Berlin, Mr Kovac, so what does this final mean to you?
Niko Kovac: No one expected us, Eintracht Frankfurt, to reach the final for the second year in a row, it’s an unbelievable success story. And the fact I am from Berlin where the final will take place, that is of course the icing on the cake.
DFB.de: Is reaching the Pokal final a target you set yourselves?
Kovac: Before the start of the season, we made reaching the final again a goal. It was bold, it was our dream. We’ve had to earn it with extraordinary will power and by playing some great games.
DFB.de: And what about you, Mr Heynckes. Was the Cup final in your thoughts when you accepted a return to Bayern?
Heynckes: I didn’t think that far ahead. At that time, it was important to make some changes. Being in the final is confirmation for the team and staff’s hard work.
DFB.de: Mr Kovac, it is also a farewell game for you. The last trip, the last team talk. What do you think your overriding emotions will be?
Kovac: A little melancholy will be there after the game. Eintracht Frankfurt were the first team I coached in the Bundesliga. I received a great opportunity two years ago, and we made the most out of that time. In Frankfurt, no one speaks about the club’s relegation to the second division anymore. It’s the opposite actually, now everyone’s saying that the goal is Europe – and we have reached the Cup final twice. The joy of having the opportunity to become DFB Pokal champion is now, however, bigger than any sadness I feel.
DFB.de: Are you feeling the same emotions, Mr Heynckes?
Heynckes: Of course I’m very happy to be in the final, but I already said my goodbyes in 2013.
DFB.de: Mr Kovac, do you like how your future team sets up?
Kovac: I like the fact we’re in the final. It doesn’t matter who it is against, even though we could be facing an easier opponent that Bayern Munich. I’m only interested in the 90 or possibly even 120 minutes and how we, as Eintracht Frankfurt, have the chance to win against Bayern. Everything is for later.
DFB.de: From your time in Frankfurt, you perhaps understand the inner workings of the club. Can you try to tell us how important winning the Cup would be for Eintracht?
Heynckes: Whoever reaches the final obviously wants to win it, otherwise they aren’t a sportsman. The same obviously applies for Frankfurt, where Niko Kovac is doing a really good job.
DFB.de: Mr Kovac, could you try to sum up the significance of a triumph like this for your club? Describe the feelings around the club and the city when Eintracht were so close to lifting the Cup last year.
Kovac: The Eintracht fans and the whole city crave a title win. The last one was 30 years ago. It was an explosion of emotions for Frankfurt and our fans. I, we all would love to fulfill this burning desire we have. After coming so close last year, my players would deserve it.###more###
DFB.de: That will most likely not mean that Bayern are less motivated…
Kovac: No, definitely not. Bayern could end a great season by winning the double and give their coach Jupp Heynckes a fantastic send-off.
DFB.de: What’s the mood like in your team at the moment, My Heynckes?
Heynckes: We’re over exiting the Champions League in the semis as much as is possible. Now our full concentration is on the final in Berlin. The team will give everything to crown the season with the double.
DFB.de: Under you, Bayern have played very consistently and despite having a clear advantage over second place, have not let up. Is that down to the players’ professionalism, the club’s DNA?
Heynckes: You need a professional attitude to play for FC Bayern, that goes without saying. Before my return, I analysed the situation thoroughly and with my coaching team, implemented everything we needed to. The success we’ve had until now is the result of the whole team’s performance.
DFB.de: What characteristics do you need in general to reach finals like these? And what makes a Cup team?
Heynckes: Alongside a certain class in all areas, you always need team that works well. Successes like these are only possible when all players pull together. Competing in the Cup requires you to perform perfectly, like our players did against Leipzig, Dortmund and Leverkusen.
Kovac: In the Pokal, you either sink or swim. A team has to be able to concentrate perfectly, be 100 percent there when required and then show passion and will – and win, often it doesn’t matter how.
DFB.de: What did you both learn from two league games your teams contested against each other this season, both of which ended in wins for Bayern (1-0 and 4-1).
Kovac: You can’t compare them, they don’t have anything to do with the final. In the league, the tactics are different and you can often be happy with a point against Bayern. Now it’s about winning the Pokal, that applied to both teams.
Heynckes: Frankfurt have already shows they are a strong team. I don’t need to say how far Eintracht have come this season.
DFB.de: Bayern have dominated the league, so why should Eintracht win in the Olympiastadion?
Kovac: (laughs) Sometimes passion and mentality beat quality. Maybe today is also one of those days.
DFB.de: Bayern lie ahead of Eintracht in the Bundesliga table. Why will you win the final?
Heynckes: I’m sorry, but making predictions before a game doesn’t make much sense and it isn’t my style.
DFB.de: What was your Pokal highlight this season?
Heynckes: The win in Leipzig on penalties was certainly a highlight and meant a lot for our season. Also the win against Dortmund and Leverkusen can’t be valued any less. The biggest highlight lies ahead of us, however.
Kovac: For us, our highlight until now was the semi-final win against Schalke. No one expected us to do that. The ultimate highlight is what we’re experiencing now – a sold-out Olympiastadion, millions of fans in front of their televisions, our opponents being FC Bayern. And again no one expects us to do it.