Niklas Dorsch has been part of the U21 squad once again for almost a year, and is an experienced member of Stefan Kuntz’s side with five appearances to his name. Ahead of the EURO qualification game against Bosnia & Herzegovina on Tuesday (18:15 CEST), the 22 year old spoke to DFB.de about his move to Belgium and the current situation for the U21 team.
DFB.de: Your last U21 game was a while ago – you were last in the squad in November 2019, but were unable to play due to injury. Since then, a bit has happened, wouldn’t you say?
Niklas Dorsch: Correct. A lot of things have happened on a personal level, and also with the U21 team, and also in everyday life. The year since my last appearance has been a very special one with a lot of experiences and changes.
DFB.de: Let’s talk about personal changes. In the summer you joined KAA Gent in Belgium. That was a surprise to some people here in Germany.
Dorsch: There weren’t really any big opportunities in Germany. And on the other hand there was a clear plan behind my move: I want to compete for titles on a national level with Gent and also show myself on the international stage, and I also think that we have a suad capable of competing in the Europa League. I saw an opportunity for me to take the next step, and going abroad will only help me mature - a new country, a new language: these are things that will do me good, not only in relation to football, but also in life.
DFB.de: In you, Lukas Nmecha and Eike Bansen, there are now three Germany U21 players playing in the Jupiler Pro League. Why is Belgium appealing to young players?
Dorsch: The league is a good platform for many young players to show themselves. Even if you’re not fully aware of some of the teams, on the pitch you see the quality and individual class that they have. In Germany, the Belgian league might not be taken too seriously, but it is paid attention to in countries like Spain, France and England. You shouldn’t forget too, that the Belgian national team has been at the top of the world rankings for a few years now.
DFB.de: What kind of football is played in the Belgian league?
Dorsch: It is a fast game. At Gent we place a lot of value on possession and controlling the game, which suits me well because I can show my strengths. However, a lot of other teams set themselves up quite deeply against us and try to transition quickly with fast players. I think that applies to the majority of teams in the league.
DFB.de: How quickly have you settled into life in Belgium? The numbers speak for themselves: you’ve featured in every game and have scored three times.
Dorsch: The initial days and weeks were not easy. But, I think that’s normal. It’s to be expected that you have to find your way into the rhythm of things first. My teammates are all great and the surroundings as well, which makes it a lot easier to settle in. Now, I’ve slowly got to the point where several things are going well and I’ve finally arrived at the club.
DFB.de: So you’re in good spirits ahead of joining up with the U21s. What can you bring to the team right now?
Dorsch: You also have to take a look at how things are within the team right now. Through the many players that have pulled out, there are several new players here. There’s not many that have made multiple appearances already, myself included. Even if it’s been a while since I last featured for the U21s, I think that I’m still able to bring a certain level of experience with me. Not least with the last few months I’ve spent abroad and the two years I had in Heidenheim, coupled with the experience of a promotion push. That’s exactly what the coach has asked of me: that I take on responsibility, both on and off the pitch. I know what it’s like to be new to the team. It’s great to then have someone within the squad that’s there to help you out and who you can talk to. That’s what I’m trying to do here.
DFB.de: Let’s take a look back at the game against Moldova. After a teammate of yours tested positive for Covid-19, the match took place under uncertain conditions. The team impressed with a 5-0 win, showing a strong reaction. What was that like?
Dorsch: Given the conditions that the game took place under, it was mentally tough on us. At the same time, you’re also up against an opponent that may be weaker on paper, but that you have to win against. That’s also not easy to deal with. But, we were optimally prepared for the game. The boys that were new to the squad were eager to play and to show what they’re capable of. When you then add in several players who are willing to take on responsibility and help guide the others a bit, then it’s guaranteed to work well. It was the perfect mix. You could see that no matter what the conditions surrounding the game were, that we wanted to win.
DFB.de: What are you expecting from tomorrow’s match?
Dorsch: When you’re representing Germany, the expectation is always that you win. No matter the opponent. If we want to qualify, we need to win every game regardless. It will definitely be another tough game. Bosnia have several good players that are individually strong, with some having played in Germany and others that are currently doing so. However, one thing is clear: this game will be decided based on mental toughness. If we bring the same mentality we had against Moldova to the pitch, then we will be successful.