The German U21s team can now look back on ten days of training in Natz (south Tyrol). Before Stefan Kuntz’s team travel to the U21 Euros, the 56-year-old spoke in an interview with DFB.de about his views on their preparation, the beautiful scenery and the aims for the team at the Euros in Italy and San Marino (16th – 30th June).
DFB.de: Stefan Kuntz, how has the training camp in Natz been?
Stefan Kuntz: In every aspect, we can take positives. The conditions of the hotel and the training grounds were ideal. We went over everything during the training sessions. We also picked up an important win in a friendly against Poland here. The most important aspects of the training camp was to ensure that all the players, the injured as well, to be ready for when the tournament comes around.
DFB.de: Did you expect the conditions to be how they were?
Kuntz: If I’m honest, it surpassed our expectations. The region in South Tyrol and Natz itself was perfect for the training camp to take place at. From the beginning, we could feel the incredible welcoming feeling from the people here and we were able to adapt here quickly. The fact that only a few players stayed in the hotel says it all. The players would spend time by the lake, the spa or on the terrace and play cards. Moreover, I have to stress that ASV Natz have two sensational training grounds and they have our gratitude. It has created a good atmosphere within the squad and our motivation levels are higher.
DFB.de: How difficult was it for you to choose your final 23-man squad?
Kuntz: It was incredibly difficult. There was really very little to it. Within the coaching team we collected some facts and data from the training sessions and we made our decisions based on that. My gut feeling played a part too. I can fully understand the disappointment of the players. I understand it because I had to leave the team shortly before the 1990 World Cup began. We announced our decision in front of the whole team as we wanted everyone to hear at the same time.
DFB.de: What aspects did you take into account during the training camp: fitness levels or mentality ahead of the tournament?
Kuntz: We value a healthy mix of both those factors. Of course the fitness levels are very important and we want everybody to be on the same level. The mental aspect is not to be underestimated though. The players have to forget about their everyday life at their club, forget about their disappointments. For this reason, we also did other activities outside training.
DFB.de: For example motivation levels and the session with American football coach Patrick Esume.
Kuntz: Exactly. As part of a TV cooperation, I got to know Patrick and I thought that his stories and his knowledge of sports would be interesting for the boys. He did a good job of rousing the players. The player’s reaction shows that Patrick’s session was taken on board. We got only positive feedback and the lads are more motivated.
DFB.de: Did you prepare specifically for your games against Denmark, Serbia and Austria during the training camp?
Kuntz: Of course that was an aspect of the training that we worked on in South Tyrol. In the individual training sessions, we trained the players to play with different tactics, depending on which opponent we were coming up against. We will go into further details with the players prior to the games.
DFB.de: Jonathan Tah and Lukas Klostermann will return to the U21s after their time with the national team. Is it a disadvantage that they have missed out on the preparation?
Kuntz: Jona and Lukas are both leaders. In the last few months, they have played in both teams and I think they will profit from their experiences that they gain during the Germany national team EURO qualification campaign. They already know how we play so it is not a big disadvantage that they missed out on the training camp.
DFB.de: What are your aims with the team for the upcoming tournament?
Kuntz: I always find it difficult to talk about defending a title when you have a completely different squad. It will be a great highlight for us to win it, so we can reward ourselves for all the hard work we have put in over the past two years. We are ambitious and want to take the next step together. We want to at least get to the semi-finals as we want to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
DFB.de: Now, all the players have a couple days at home and then on Friday, you will travel to Italy. How important is this short break?
Kuntz: It is important that the players are happy to see their family and friends. However, they need to adjust relatively quickly back to the feeling that they are highly motivated for the Euros. We need it in order to get into the three day rhythm that we will play in at the tournament. In addition, we had some high intensity training sessions so the physical recovery is good for the players.