The countdown is on: Germany U21 head coach Stefan Kuntz has named his first draft squad for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In an interview with DFB.de, Kuntz spoke about his anticipation of the event, his player selection and the unusual squad size.
DFB.de: Mr Kuntz, are you already excited for the Olympics?
Stefan Kuntz: On the one hand, yes – the Olympics will be a magnificent, unique experience for all of us as athletes and as people. We will be part of Team Germany and will obviously want to represent our country as best we can. On the other hand, there are another two games for the U21s in March, which are a priority for us right now since qualification for the EUROS next season is at stake. Taking part at the championship should never be taken for granted and we are desperate to make sure German football is represented there again.
DFB.de: You have submitted a full draft squad to NADA. How much work goes into such a selection?
Kuntz: Certainly a lot of thought goes into it. Planning for the Olympics is a long-term process. Over the last few days, I’ve visited several Bundesliga clubs at their training camps in order to speak with the coaches, the directors and the players. Obviously a lot of our talks were about the squad for the Olympics, and the release of players. There are also ongoing internal discussions about this, of course. Now we have drafted out a preliminary squad of about 50 players, which we’ve sent to NADA. These players are now subject to unannounced doping tests for an unspecified period
DFB.de: How do you put together this draft of players?
Kuntz: Partly the squad consists of the current U21 players who we named in September 2019 for our first EURO qualifiers. We can also still recall players born in 1997 from the previous squad. That’s why when it comes to Olympic Football people usually refer to an U23 team. Furthermore, we are allowed to select three older players. The biggest difference between this and the U21 EUROS is the squad size – we can only select 16 outfield players and two goalkeepers. That’s five fewer players than we’re used to, despite us having to play every three days. For this reason, fitness and the ability to recover quickly and cope with physical strain will be deciding factors in the final squad selection.
DFB.de: What else will you be looking at in choosing the squad?
Kuntz: We’ve been discussing internally and externally that we’d like to choose players from as many different clubs as possible, so that there aren’t any clubs being especially burdened by the loss of players. Having said that, the dates for this year’s Olympics are not as disruptive to the clubs’ preseason training programmes. The players will have some time off first, they can then take part in the first few days of preseason training before the event begins. Even if we go all the way to the final, they will return to their clubs a whole two weeks before the first Bundesliga game of the season. We have also decided that no player will take part in two tournaments – so the EUROS and the Olympics. The players returning from the Olympics will be at a similar fitness level to if they had been completing preseason training.
DFB.de: There’s a lot of speculation surrounding the three older players that you are allowed to take.
Kuntz: That’s understandable, football fans expect the biggest names to be in the squad – several candidates have been named lately, such as Maxi Arnold, Davie Selke, Maxi Eggestein, Sandro Wagner and Max Kruse, whose names have all been sent to NADA among others. Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels for example are also registered at NADA thanks to their involvement with the senior national team. The three older players will be the last pieces of our puzzle. After the season, we’ll look at which positions we can fill with our current U21 squad and the previous year group. After that, we’ll analyse in which positions need reinforcement, what kind of people we’re missing in the overall structure that can lead the youngsters, and who already has experience at tournaments. The final squad will only be named in June.