Zellner (l.) steps up to take the opening penalty in the round of 16 shootout win versus Karlsruher.
1. FC Saarbrücken currently top the Regionalliga Südwest, and are the sole non-Bundesliga side remaining in the DFB-Pokal quarterfinals. The fourth-tier side are set to face Fortuna Düsseldorf at home on Tuesday (18:30 CET). In an interview, Saabrücken’s Steven Zellner talks about the chances his team have of making the semifinals.
DFB.de: 1. FC Saarbrücken are the only non-Bundesliga side to advance to the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal. Do you still have to pinch yourself to realise that it’s not a dream, Mr. Zellner?
Steven Zellner: Not really. There have been plenty of surprises in the DFB-Pokal over the years. I believe that, if we have a good day, that we’re able to take down a Bundesliga team or even a second-division side. We’ve been able to do so on three occasions already, which is a nice bonus in addition to our strong season in the Regionalliga Südewest.
DFB.de: Which match in the competition was the biggest highlight so far?
Zellner: I don’t want to choose just one. The memories of beating Karlsruher SC 5-3 on penalties in the round of 16 are still fresh. But, the 3-2 wins over SSV Jahn Regensburg and 1. FC Köln – both of which came through a late winner – were also very emotional. Every round was something special. As a team, we put on a strong performance in every round so far.
DFB.de: You stepped up to take the first shot in the penalty shootout against Karlsruher. Would you do so again?
Zellner: If I’m on the pitch at that point, then yes. It’s not as if we spent time practicing penalties ahead of the match against KSC. After practice we sometimes take a few penalties, but not in order to prepare ourselves for a shootout. Personally, I prefer winning in 90 minutes (laughs).
DFB.de: Lukas Kwasniok took over as head coach of the club at the start of the year. What impression do you have of him so far?
Zellner: Lukas Kwasniok knows exactly what he wants to see from the team and prepares us well every time. When we as players put it into action, then we notice right away what kind of plan lies behind it. Overall, he’s a bit less emotional than his predecessor, Dirk Lottner, who would be sure to speak up from the sidelines when he felt it necessary to do so during matches.
DFB.de: The change in coaches also meant a change in position for you. Instead of lining up as a central defender, you’re now a striker. How do you come to grips with what are two very different positions?
Zellner: I often played as a striker for the youth teams at 1. FC Kaiserslautern and during my early stages with the FCK reserves. There’s a few things from back then that I remember (laughs). As an attacker, I need to be prepared to run more, so it’s actually a benefit that I’m pretty quick already. I’m also able to keep a cool head on the ball, which helps me at both positions. Given that I know how to play both, I can also predict how my opponent will act. But, I don’t tend to rely too much on that. The other players and situations vary too often for me to do that.
DFB.de: FCS are in first place in the Regionalliga Südwest. If you had the choice, which would you prefer: winning promotion to the 3. Liga, or winning the DFB-Pokal?
Zellner: Winning the Pokal would be amazing. But, we’re not naive when it comes to our odds of doing so. In the DFB-Pokal, everything has to go right. The league is our priority, given that we’ve only narrowly missed out on promotion a few times over the last few years. As a Saarland native, winning promotion with FCS would be something really special. The team have a huge impact on my life. We will take it step by step. Maybe we’ll be talking about a possible treble at the end of the season, together with the Saarland Cup (laughs).
DFB.de: What went through your mind at the quarterfinal draw when you heard Fortuna Düsseldorf’s name being read?
Zellner: You naturally start thinking about potential opponents prior to the draw. If you’re in the quarterfinals, then you always want to advance to the next round. In my opinion, being drawn against Fortuna Düsseldorf means we’re facing a Bundesliga side against whom we have a slight chance of advancing to the next round. However, in order to do so we will need to have a perfect day and a bit of luck.
DFB.de: What will it come down to in order for you to serve up another cupset?
Zellner: We can’t allow them too many chances on defence. The longer the score remains 0-0, the more nervous Fortuna will hopefully get, which will lead to them making mistakes that we will look to exploit. We need to wait for the right moment to strike.
DFB.de: Possibly with your first goal as a striker for Saarbrücken?
Zellner: I definitely wouldn’t say no to that (laughs). In the end, it doesn’t matter to me who scores for us, as long as we’re successful as a team. Even if I don’t manage to have a hand in a goal, it wouldn’t diminish the feeling of advancing to the next round.