The first step on the path towards the 2021 European Championship in Slovenia and Hungary is complete, as Germany’s U21s picked up a clear 5-1 victory over Wales in Wrexham. Head coach Stefan Kuntz speaks with DFB.de editor Karl Evers about the successful start, hattrick hero Robin Hack and the upcoming rematch with Spain on 10th October.
DFB.de: Mr. Kuntz, how happy are you with your start to European qualification?
Stefan Kuntz: I’m extremely happy with the result, we could not have asked for a better performance, especially with the prior warning of the Belgium game, which Wales won (Ed. Note: 1-0). Our analysis of Wales was good, which is why we were able to develop a fitting match plan. Of course, the deciding factor was the fact that the boys put our plan into action perfectly.
DFB.de: What did the match plan look like?
Kuntz: We knew that Wales would look to lock down the middle of the field, which is why we shifted our focus to the wings. Our full-backs in particular had to dribble more. If you think about the fact that several players – especially the full-backs – have very little match practice at the moment and are also not used to playing in this position, then a result like that was not what we expected.
DFB.de: You said it: full-backs Ridle Baku and Nico Schlotterbeck were not used to playing in these positions. Why did you still chose to go with those two?
Kuntz: We have a good network, and are in touch with the coaches at each club and with the players themselves, naturally. For example, Felix Agu was strong at right-back during our first match – this was the first time that we’ve gotten to know him. He’s also been able to make incredible progress at Osnabrück. Howeve, for the match against Wales we were looking for players that have as much top-flight playing experience as possible. In that regard, we elected to go with Nico and Ridle.
DFB.de: What else was a crucial factor in the win?
Kuntz: The fact that everyone continues to trust in each other, that we continue to try and continue to play with confidence. At the same time, we had three midfield bosses in the mix with Vitaly Janelt, Adrian Fein and Niklas Dorsch. That had an impact on the overall stability of the team. We were then able to find the necessary space up front.
DFB.de: Robin Hack scored a hattrick within a span of 10 minutes. What do you have to say about his performance?
Kuntz: Toni di Salvo (Ed. Note: the assistant coach) analysed the last match live in Nuremberg – we had a good exchange with the sporting director there and the coach. You could already see glimpses of Robin’s continuous development at Nürnberg. He was also extremely active and dangerous in front of goal during our training sessions. It came down to us having to think about where he could be the most effective for us, which he definitely proved.
DFB.de: Ahead of the matches, you spoke about a “brand-new start.” What’s your view of the situation now after one and half weeks with the new squad?
Kuntz: The first of the initial ten steps of our new start is complete. You could tell in training that the boys understood what I wanted them to do relatively quickly, and that they were then able to put it into action. That’s one quality. We didn’t know how stable it would be during a game. That stability was one of the things that we challenged the team to do against Wales. It’s especially important during those moments where nothing seems to go right, when your passing is incomplete – those are the moments where we need to try to maintain that stability. That’s something that we were able to do very well.
DFB.de: Looking ahead, what are your thoughts on the upcoming matches in October?
Kuntz: The match against Spain will definitely be a high-level test for us. We want to continue to improve upon those things that maybe didn’t go so well this time around.
DFB.de: What things were those?
Kuntz: The quality of our passes, our first touch, and to some extent our runs into space. But, what do you expect? Many of the boys have not played much so far this season. The most important thing is that they can try things out here without fear. That’s what’s led to us creating several beautiful plays already.