The Germany U21 national team had high hopes ahead of their big match against Belgium, but came up short in a clear 4-1 defeat in Leuven. Head coach Stefan Kuntz answered the media’s questions in his post-match press conference.
Stefan Kuntz on...
…the defeat against Belgium: The defeat is absolutely pointless if we don’t learn from it. I thought that we played brilliantly for the first 20 minutes – we looked really dominant. Then we went behind because of a positional error and we lost our way after that. But you have to accept being 1-0 behind. Maybe we could have made a comeback if not for the red card. Our goalkeeper, Lennart Grill, was outstanding and was able to stop a lot of the strikers’ shots. We can definitely learn from this match.
…how the team performed following the early red card: The attitude was great, so I have to defend the lads – you could see how they all pushed themselves right to their physical limit. It was also obvious that the Belgian players already had two or three matches behind them. We did well until half time, but unfortunately we conceded too early in the second half – that was a knock-out blow. The boys kept trying, but it got harder and harder on the legs. After that came the penalty, even though the foul actually occurred outside the box.
…Belgium’s second goal: We wanted defend slightly deeper in the second half, as we were missing some pace in defence after the change at centreback. We didn’t want to give the opposition space in behind. Defending deep doesn’t necessarily mean that you become passive, but at that moment we did. The Belgians were clinical and scored with the first chance that came their way.
…lessons learned from the defeat: I can take some positives from the performance in the first 20 minutes. The rest of the first half was also pleasing when you consider the attitude and mentality. After the final whistle, I told the players that it is important to self-reflect. Was the dismissal to blame for the defeat? How is my physical condition? What can I improve on personally? If they all take it seriously – especially that last question – then we can take nine points from these three remaining matches. There are qualifying spots up for grabs, not only for the group leaders but also for the five best second-placed teams. :
…missing out on winning the Euros last year: Not every year group can be as strong as last year’s, that is no secret. That’s how I felt when we got knocked out in Udine last year, but I don’t think that our window to compete is over yet – I trust that this year group can develop and achieve things too. Maybe this time the process will take a little longer. But in all fairness, we used six debutants in our last two games. Only four players remained in the starting line-up from our match against Belgium last November. If the players reflect well, get regular game time, and hit top form with their clubs, then the outlook will be completely different come October. We’re still developing, so I’m not letting things affect me too much.
…his aims for the next round of international fixtures: I hope that the players get plenty of club football before we meet again. That way, they will be in a much better rhythm and we can expect better performances. We have already seen their desire, but it’s tough on their legs right now. Some of them hadn’t played a single 90-minute match yet. So the next international break will be different, and we will have higher ambitions as a result.