The Germany U21 side won their last international of the year yesterday when they beat Italy 2-1. Stefan Kuntz’s team now boast a record of seven wins, one draw and a goal difference of 22:2 in 2018. In an interview with DFB.de, the head coach, Stefan Kuntz, spoke with editor Maximilian Schwartz about his team’s performance against Italy and draws a conclusion about the year as a whole.
DFB.de: Stefan Kuntz, what did you make of the last international game of the year in Reggio nell’Emilia?
Stefan Kuntz: Particularly in the second half, I saw a very good performance from my side. However it’s important that we look at the game as a whole. The result was rather second rate. It was just important that our match plan worked.
DFB.de: What exactly did you make of your team’s play?
Kuntz: Defensively we wanted to make the centre strong to ensure depth, meaning we could deal with the Italian’s long balls. Offensively, we wanted to play our way forward along the wings. After we started the first few minutes strongly, we slipped and relinquished control of the game for the rest of the half. At half-time, players voted on whether we should change the system or stick with the same plan.
DFB.de: And you chose to keep the game plan?
Kuntz: Yeah exactly. The boys were convinced that they could carry it out better in the second half if they concentrated more. In the second half we grew stronger and eventually got the win. At the end we were under pressure from long balls again, but that’s normal. We’ve definitely learned something from this game: if we stick to our game plan we can be successful against strong opponents.
DFB.de: Eight games, seven wins, one draw, 22:2 goal difference. What is your conclusion for the year 2018?
Kuntz: It was an amazing year for the U21s. Our record makes me proud to be the coach. On one side it’s an honour for the players, on another side it’s a reflection of the team behind the squad. The fact that we’ve remained undefeated this year is very valuable as we have managed to distribute game time out well and have therefore given many players the opportunity to develop.
DFB.de: Considering the Euros are only seven months away, can you draw insight from the previous games to utilize at the tournament?
Kuntz: The European Championship is still far in the future. For example, the Italian U21 side did not have many players with them today because they had been called up to the full national team. For us as well, there were a few players that could have played for us but were given the call-up for die Mannschaft. How exactly the teams set out for the tournament is something we won’t know until it begins. It is much more important to be prepared, develop ourselves and learn what you can with the players you have. These kind of insights will prepare us for the tournament with the 12 best U21 sides in Europe. The team have worked really hard in the last few months and are in a very good place.
DFB.de: If you compare the game against Italy with the first international of the U21 season in September 2017, what developments have you seen from your players?
Kuntz: Each player has had a positive development. On the one hand, this is due to the work we’ve put in together with the training team. The team spirit has improved steadily and the team has grown together more and more. The players like coming to the U21 team because of the atmosphere here. On the other hand, a lot of very important development has come from the clubs. Through many first team appearances and the trust of their sides, the players have been able to develop consistently. We are therefore very thankful to the individual clubs for aiding the development of the U21 side. The players arrive one day later and leave one day earlier so they can prepare themselves for their next task with their clubs.