After two convincing wins against Denmark (3-1) and Serbia (6-1), Germany’s U21s are preparing themselves for the all-important group stage match against Austria on Sunday (21:00 CEST). Goalkeeper Alexander Nübel spoke with DFB.de editor Maximilian Schwartz about the duel between the neighbouring countries, how the tournament has been so far and his development over the last few months.
DFB.de: Alexander Nübel, Germany started the European Championship in Italy and San Marino with two wins in two games and a goal difference of nine for and two against. What’s your impression of the first two matches?
Alexander Nübel: You couldn’t have a better start to a European Championship. It took us a bit to get that competition intensity going in the first match against Denmark. Most recently, we picked up a convincing victory and took it up another notch against Serbia. We’re very solid on defence and play fast up front. That’s exactly how we want to continue.
DFB.de: What strengths define the team?
Nübel: Like I said, we are solid on defence and are quick to shut down any counter-attacks. We communicate really well amongst ourselves, are able to shut down our opponents on the wings and are always ready to make a tackle. It’s not just the backline that are defending well—the same goes for our strikers and midfielders. Both our goals against came from penalties, which is something we need to correct. As a goalkeeper, I obviously always want to keep a clean sheet. Our other strengths include our talented attackers and our cohesion.
DFB.de: The DFB posted a photo on Instagram where your fellow goalkeeper Florian Müller was giving you a hug and wishing you all the best ahead of the match against Serbia. What does that photo say about the atmosphere within the team?
Nübel: That photo represents our team spirit. We all get along really well and have grown close. That’s especially true within the goalkeeping team. The level of training is high and I can feel the support from Flo Müller and Markus Schubert. Of course both of them would love to play at the Euros, but they’ve put their personal feelings aside in order to give their all for the team. You have to applaud them for that.
DFB.de: A draw against Austria would be enough for Germany to top the group. Is that something that’s at the back of your mind before the match?
Nübel: Of course not. That way of thinking is dangerous. We want to win so that we definitely have a spot in the semifinals. We don’t want to play to a draw. Instead, we want to follow through on our game plan the same way we’ve done for the last two matches.
DFB.de: What kind of a match are you expecting against Austria?
Nübel: Both teams want to move on to the semifinals. That says everything about how significant this match is. At the same time, it’s a duel between neighbouring countries. Austria are highly motivated to win against us. We have confidence going into the match and want to pick up our third win as well as qualifying for the Olympics.
DFB.de: You’ve been the first-string goalkeeper for the U21s since the start of Euro qualification in September 2017. Over the course of last season you also moved into the number one spot at FC Schalke 04, which has put you a lot of attention on you. What effect has that had on your role within the U21s?
Nübel: I’ve been able to develop myself both within the national team and within the club. Ever since becoming the number one keeper at Schalke, I’ve become more recognizable. That’s all. I had already delivered strong performances for the U21s even before all that, and I always try to help lead the team. Within a team where most of the players are around the same age, anyone can take on some level of responsibility in order to contribute.