Maren Meinert is in charge of two Germany women’s teams, who both have lots to look forward to in 2018. While the Under-20s have already qualified for the World Cup in France this summer, the Under-19s are looking to secure their spot in the European Championship held in Switzerland later this year. The German side won convincingly in their opener against Slovakia 8-0 and are due to face Israel today in Dunajaska Luzna (11:00 CEST), before a final game against England on Monday. The 44-year-old Meinert spoke about their prospects.
DFB.de: It’s fairly clear that your goal should be qualifying for the finals after the 8-0 win in the opener, no?
Maren Meinert: The only target is qualifying for the European Championship. We want to win the group and to do so we can’t let up for a second, because it’s only the first placed teams that go through to the finals. I’m obviously extremely happy with the manner in which we beat Slovakia in the opener and how well we’ve started after such a short period of preparation. There’s still a lot yet to do though.
DFB.de: What does the first result mean for the second qualifier today?
Meinert: We have to remain a high level of concentration against Israel and play with intelligence in order to win this game as well. It will then all come down to the final game against England. Who wants it more? Who’s able to play at their best when they need to most? They will be intense games, but my players will grow as a result.
DFB.de: You and your assistant coach Bettina Wiegmann and goalkeeper coach Silke Rottenberg were teammates together in the past. How important is that?
Meinert: My motto is that being part of a coaching staff is a true team effort. We know each other very well and have built up a high level of trust. It’s a huge help to have them working with me with the girls in my squad. Another important factor is that we’re actually very different people, despite our friendship. Having different perspectives on football is really beneficial for my players.
DFB.de: You’re in charge of two teams at the moment - the Under-19s and the Under-20s. How hard is it to balance the two on a day-to-day basis?
Meinert: I must say it really isn’t a job for me, rather a privilege to be able to continue to work in the sport I am passionate about. In order to make sure that both sides develop equally, however, we have to plan things out very well so that we don’t have too much crossover. It’s a huge amount of fun being in charge of two teams, but I’m aware it’s not feasible for it to be the case for ever.
DFB.de: What do you aim to achieve in 2018 with both teams?
Meinert: With my very young Under-19 squad, who are more like an Under-18 side in reality due to their age, we want to qualify for the Euros, which I’m confident we’ll be able to achieve. On the other hand, the Under-20s have been playing together already for about two and a half years. The World Cup will be definitely be a highlight and be a great end to our time together.
DFB.de: The team will face off against Nigeria, China and Haiti in the group stage of the U20 World Cup. How do you assess the group?
Meinert: All of the 16 teams taking part have a lot of quality, so we can’t expect there to be any easy games. Nigeria have some talented individual players and have a strong physical presence. We’ve already played a few times against China, and every one of those games was very entertaining. The Chinese are very well organised and do everything with a lot of pace. This is the first time that Haiti will be taking part in a World Cup. You need to be very good to qualify for this tournament, so we’re looking forward to playing an unfamiliar and exciting opponent.
DFB.de: Are you focusing on anything in particular in your preparation for the tournament?
Meinert: We’ve had a few friendlies in order to get the most out of the limited time that we do have. We want to play with a lot more variety all around to be able to react better to new situations that might arise in a game. It’s crucial that we keep our heads from the first to the final game and play like we have been training. That means being active in defense, playing quickly on the counter and trying to create and then capitalise on one-on-one situations.
DFB.de: You have two players in the form of Giulia Gwinn and Jana Feldkamp that have already been called up to the full women’s national team. How good of a feeling is it when one of your players takes that next step?
Meinert: If players such as Giulia and Jana are called up to the senior squad from our team, it pleases me personally a lot. Our biggest aim is to prepare our girls as best we can to make the jump to the senior side and be successful. Now they both have to stay focused and look to keep developing and not rest on their laurels. That’s the mark of a good player.
DFB.de: How important are Gwinn and Feldkamp for your Under-20s?
Meinert: They’re obviously both a crucial part of our squad. Jana Feldkamp is our captain and Giulia Gwinn has taken a big step forward recently. But they’re certainly not the only ones that have improved over the last two years. Our team prides itself on how it works as a team and there have been several players that have stood out as a result.