The Germany U20s’ season has ended and what a season the boys have had, recording five wins and two draws, keeping up their unbeaten record for the entirety of the 2017/18 season. DFB.de took the time to catch up with Frank Kramer, the 45-year-old coach to talk about the strength of his side this season, their trademarks and taking part in the training camp with Joachim Löw and Germany's senior team.
DFB.de: Frank, you and your team have ended this international season with two wins against Portugal and Poland, managing to keep a clean sheet both times. What did you make of these performances and the season as a whole?
Frank Kramer: The U20s have had a brilliant season playing at the highest level; it has been truly class. It speaks for itself that we have consistently performed well against tough competition and continued to improve as the season has gone on. Despite squad changes, I can’t think of a single bad performance. It is a testament to the DFB’s youth development and also to the team. The boys that play with us can all have one eye on the U21s.
DFB.de: Were the most recent games the jewel to top the crown?
Kramer: You could say that. We pressed the ball really hard and on occasions won it high up the pitch, which helped create chances and inevitably goals. In the end we fully deserved our win. Our consistency at the back, which improved as the season went on as well as our work in transition were our trademarks across our games this season. To have played these last two games without conceding is an indication of how the team has matured.
DFB.de: Are there other indications for that?
Kramer: Over the course of the season we have been much more decisive and more versatile going forward. When we have the ball we are more dominant and more dynamic than we were at the start of the season, so we posed a lot more questions when we came up against the Portuguese and Polish defences.
DFB.de: What importance do you believe the U20s holds as a stepping stone between the junior and senior sides?
Kramer: The U20s continues the development and training of these players at the highest level and promote as many players as possible into the U21s. We have achieved this successfully with players like Philipp Ochs from VfL Bochum, Jordan Torunarigha from Hertha BSC and Eduard Löwen from 1. FC Nürnberg who all made the jump to the U21s. Stefan Kuntz from the U21s and I keep in close contact.
DFB.de: In light of those players' progressions and the jump to the next level being seen as the goal of this team, which players have particularly impressed?
Kramer: Above all it has to be said that we have been successful because we have acted as a team, following our offensive and defence guidelines with a well-defined build-up play. However in attack, Robin Hack from TSG Hoffenheim has played well, not only just because of the two goals he picked up, so too has Aymen Barkok from Eintracht Frankfurt. Lukas Mühl from 1. FC Nürnberg has shone in the centre of our defence, commanding in a way that is far superior to his age. In midfield Dzenis Burnic from VfB Stuttgart was impressive. He was equally good in attack and defence, helping out time and again in transition whenever a gap in our formation appeared. All the players though are on a similar level and have implemented our method well, in attack and defence. The team spirit has been great.
DFB.de: As a reward for their efforts, the U20s now have the chance to join up with the senior team on their training camp in preparation for the World Cup. What role do you see your team having in Südtirol?
Kramer: We will help out as much as we can. We want to prepare our national team as best we can heading into the World Cup. Every one of our players is looking forward to the task. Our trip isn’t to have a jolly but rather to ensure the level of training is the highest possible.
DFB.de: For you it will be your last task with the U20s. What will be your next step?
Kramer: I will take over the U18s team; the class of 2001. So in the coming months I will be taking a look at the U17 players and keeping in touch with their respective clubs.
DFB.de: So you are not looking to return to a club job?
Kramer: I have been with the DFB for a year and a half and am just starting to get the hang of things (laughs). At the DFB there is a great relationship between the clubs, the junior teams and the senior teams. For the time being I’m really enjoying working with the top young talents Germany has to offer. Together as a team we are trying to do something and there are a lot of interesting challenges to come.