The Germany U21s have qualified for the knockout stages of the U21 EUROs, following a 0-0 draw against Romania. The team will now face the winners of Group C in the quarterfinals in Szekesfehervar on 31st May. In an interview with DFB.de editor Karl Evers, head coach Stefan Kuntz speaks about the game against Romania and a special motto for the competition.
DFB.de: Mr. Kuntz, how relieved are you to have reached the quarterfinals of the U21 EUROs?
Stefan Kuntz: I’m relieved because it was our goal to have this age group compete at the highest level possible for U21s in Europe again. I’m very happy that the boys have managed to reach the quarterfinals. We will now also be able to host a training camp ahead of the game. This gives us the possibility to show that there’s more that this squad can do, than what they’ve shown so far.
DFB.de: Why did your side struggle to score against Romania?
Kuntz: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t (laughs). Overall, we had slightly more chances. We were often well-positioned in the final third, but then made the wrong decision or failed to play that key pass. However it’s only logical that, in order for the team to be well-rehearsed in these - usually attacking - situations, you need time. That’s something that we will now have thanks to the training camp ahead of the knockouts. Additionally, the boys were under a lot of pressure, as well as the strain of having three games in short succession. Based on this, we’re very happy with the performance.
DFB.de: The defence was solid yet again, as in the previous games.
Kuntz: Yes, our defence was the basis. We’ve conceded just once in three games, and that was an unlucky goal as well. We barely allowed Romania any shots on goal. We can be proud of that.
DFB.de: Your team motto for the EUROs was “Exceptional times - exceptional team.” How have you seen that represented during the group stages?
Kuntz: We spoke to our backroom staff and to the team at the start, about what was so exceptional about these times and about the team. It was a quickfire team building round. I have a great staff that I can count on, who are very solid and can pass on certain values to the team. If, as a player, you’re not just getting an example of these values from just the coach, but the physiotherapists, the kitman, the bus driver and every other member of the backroom staff, then you absorb them much quicker. Because we already have the motto of “HERZZEIGEN” (Eng. Show heart), then the highlight was definitely seeing all the players go over to console Finn Dahmen after he made a mistake against the Netherlands. That’s what makes this team so special, and it perfectly exemplifies that motto.
DFB.de: What about the ‘exceptional times’?
Kuntz: Like every other team, we didn’t have time to prepare, and every team are currently in the bubble. Based on these tough conditions, we wanted to take the opportunity to show the special talents we have within the team. These were hidden talents such as putting a game plan into effect, or putting tactics into effect, which we managed to do quite well in the end.
DFB.de: Now that you’ve qualified for the quarterfinals, it’s natural to focus once again on what’s to come. How will the next few days look like for you personally? And the next weeks and months as well?
Kuntz: I’ll be happy to have a few days to relax. I have a few days off starting on Saturday. But, then it picks right back up afterwards. We keep in touch with the players and keep an eye on them. That includes those who could be candidates for the Olympic Games. There’s more than enough to keep busy (laughs).