DFB.de: Mr. Eggestein, you joined up with the U21s in Zwickau on Monday. What is the mood in the team like?
Johannes Eggestein: So far it’s all good. The atmosphere is also a little relaxed right now. At the beginning, of course, everyone is new, a little cautious, maybe even shy. But after we had our first meeting we went straight to training. From then on you could tell that everyone is a bit more confident with the ball at their feet.
DFB.de: And a large part of the squad knew each other already from other youth teams.
Eggestein: Exactly, you know some from before. I even knew quite a few players from when we played together in the U15s.
DFB.de: As both a first-team Bundesliga player and a member of the Germany team who finished second at the U21 European Championship, you are already one of the veterans of the team. How do you feel about that?
Eggestein: At the European Championships I was one of the youngest but now, half a year later, I’m one of the oldest. Obviously it’s a big change, but it’s one I need to and want to adapt to. And I want to take on responsibility. Sure, we’re a new group, and we need to find our feet together. But, that’s what training is for and I hope I can help out with that.
DFB.de: Let’s take a look at the games: on Thursday you have your first match against Greece. An important dress rehearsal for your team to get used to each other?
Eggestein: It was very similar two years ago with the last group of players. We also had a friendly match first – that’s always important to have before the first EUROs qualifier. Even if you already knew each other from before, everything is still new. That’s why this is an important game.
DFB.de: After the Greece game, your European Championship qualifying campaign gets underway against Wales. How hard will that be with a completely new team?
Eggestein: Of course, when you consider that we will be playing together for the first time, you shouldn’t expect the highest quality football to be played right away. But if we use the game against Greece to get to know each other a bit, and iron out our tactics, then we can have a good game in Wales. The goal is of course to win both games – that’s not something that’s up for debate. That’s the approach that we will take.
DFB.de: What are your personal targets in the next two years with the U21s? As a striker presumably they’d be to score goals, and…
Eggestein: Sure, I will always want to score goals. But that is not the most important thing for me. First and foremost, I want to play well in our EURO qualification matches with the U21s, so that we can qualify for the European Championship in two years. And then we have a little “stopover” (laughs) in Tokyo at the Olympic Games. Of course I want to be there – just like the European Championship.
DFB.de: As in every international break these days, there is the #Herzzeigen-Aktionen (Show Heart campaign), whereby the U21s support charitable and social projects as well as clubs near the international venues. What does that mean to you?
Eggestein: I’m a guy who comes from a good background. I have never experienced tragedy, nor financial issues or ill health. Therefore, I know how lucky I am. On the other hand, I know that there are people who do not have it so well. With the U21s we have a desire to show our hearts to other too and support people who may not be doing so well at the moment.
DFB.de: Now for a quick look at your club, Werder Bremen. They’ve played pretty well in their last year with Bundesliga legend Claudio Pizzaro. How has he helped you with your development?
Eggestein: I’m never quite sure that this is his last year (laughs). But he has already hinted that this is the year, so let’s assume it is. “Pizza” is a very open and carefree person. He always comes into the changing room with a beaming smile, even when he is tired. That’s what defines him and ultimately his football skill, as he just has fun with it out on the pitch. He doesn’t think of the money, or what he could use it for, but instead he just plays football because he wants to. Besides, he’s very approachable and tries to help you with little things here and there, and that helps the whole team.