It just wasn’t enough to get the second European Championship title in a row. In an interview with DFB.de editor Maximilian Schwartz, head coach Stefan Kuntz spoke about the loss in the final against Spain at the U21 Euros in Italy and San Marino and the mood within the German team.
DFB.de: Stefan Kuntz, how would you describe the mood within the team after the 2-1 loss to Spain in the final at the U21 Euros?
Stefan Kuntz: Of course all the players are extremely disappointed. After the match we had a nice farewell with friends and family in the team hotel, that definitely helped us get over the disappointment a bit. Otherwise, I hope that the players get a little less sad with each day that passes and that they get to the point where they are proud of their performance. We played a great tournament, and the players took a huge step forward in their personal development. That’s something they can benefit from during the rest of their careers.
DFB.de: Why were Spain able to control the match at the start?
Kuntz: Spain changed their tactics a bit from what we expected. As a result, they were able to have more players in midfield and were able to break through quite a bit. In contrast, we didn’t shut down their passing game enough. Once we recognized what was happening, we were able to take back a bit of control and create chances for ourselves. Midway through the second half you had the feeling that we were about to score and could have turned the match in our favour. During that phase is when Spain scored to make it 2-0.
DFB.de: Still, your team did not give up after that.
Kuntz: Yes, even through everyone had written us off by that point. We fought our way back and scored a goal. I’m very proud of the team, who showed a lot of heart. They didn’t give up until the final whistle went.
DFB.de: You started with the current U21 squad in September 2017 with a 2-1 loss against Hungary at home in Paderborn. How would you describe the team’s development since then?
Kuntz: We’re happy to have been able to continue to develop the players during those two years. From the start, our goal was to show people that our players could compete with the rest of their age groups from other countries—that they are just as talented as Spain, Italy and France. We were able to be very effective in our Euro qualification matches and played great football during the tournament itself. That’s what the players should take with them as they head on holiday before returning to their clubs. There are plenty of players that we hope will make more appearances and be able to establish themselves as starters.
DFB.de: In the aftermath of the U21 Euros, what are some of the strengths of the U21 team?
Kuntz: The biggest one is the mental strength of the players, which we saw against Romania in the semifinal when we were down against an unpleasant opponent. Even in the final, where the team gave it their all right until the end in order to turn the match around. Additionally, there’s a willingness to learn, the ability to put tactics into action and to remain disciplined while doing so.
DFB.de: Arne Maier, Lukas Nmecha, Johannes Eggestein and Markus Schubert are just four players from the current squad that will be eligible to play for the U21s next season. What do you hope happens for the remaining players?
Kuntz: Naturally we would have all liked to end it by lifting the trophy at the Euros. But, it wasn’t meant to be. I hope that the boys continue to work on their skills and keep their characters the way they are now. This was an exceptional age group, and I believe that certain players can make the move into the senior squad. Some of them have already made this step, and I think that there are others who can do the same, if they continue to work hard on improving and get the right amount of game time with their clubs.