Consistently strong performances have seen Felix Uduokhai earn himself the kind of attention that often precedes a call-up to the national team. The 23-year-old centre-back for FC Augsburg sat down with DFB.de ahead of his side’s DFB-Pokal clash against RB Leipzig next Tuesday (18:30 CET) to discuss FCA’s chances, curious statistics, and his goals for next summer.
DFB.de: Felix, let’s start with a quiz question: you’re currently in your fifth season of competing in the DFB-Pokal and have played seven games for three clubs in the course of this. How many of these cup games do you think you’ve lost?
Felix Uduokhai: I haven't been that successful in the cup so far in my career. Four or five?
DFB.de: No, not a single one! Whenever you were actively involved on the pitch, your team always advanced to the next round!
Uduokhai: I wasn't aware of that at all! I always count myself as part of the team of course, even if I’ve sat on the bench and we’ve lost the game. But that’s definitely a cool record I’ll keep that in mind.
DFB.de: You can build on this record in the second round against RB Leipzig. Just how strong do you think your upcoming opponents are?
Uduokhai: I watched them play most recently in the Champions League against Manchester United. That was a great game for neutral football fans. Leipzig play great football and aren’t afraid to get forwards. Their style of play is well-known at this point: getting forward at pace, pressing when out of possession, and fighting for every ball. They’re also very good with the ball; just a super team all round.
DFB.de: In the Bundesliga, you met Nagelsmann’s team at home on the fourth matchday and lost 2-0. What has stuck in your mind from that game and what lessons have you learned from it?
Uduokhai: I remember Yussuf Poulsen's goal that made it 2-0 to them. He got such a clean connection on the ball, and that goal really killed the game off. Up until the goal, they’d had more of the ball and were on top, but we weren’t completely outclassed. I thought we gave a good account of ourselves up until that.
DFB.de: How do you rate your chances against Leipzig then?
Uduokhai: Leipzig are certainly favourites going into the game. But the DFB-Pokal is one of the best competitions in football – every game is a final with one winner and one loser. I like that feeling on the pitch because whatever happens out there is decisive. I’m looking forward to the game a lot because we have something to make up for after the loss in the league.
DFB.de: What significance does the cup have for you personally?
Uduokhai: It's my big dream to win the cup one day. The beauty of the cup is that you can win a title in just a few key games. That’s what makes the Pokal so appealing. These games often depend on which team turns up on the day, so the favourite doesn’t always win.
DFB.de: What are your earliest memories of the Pokal? Are there any special moments that you like to look back on?
Uduokhai: I have great memories of my first ever cup match for 1860 Munich. That was my first competitive game as a senior player – I played the full 120 minutes, and I also scored the decisive penalty in the shootout against Würzburger Kickers! That was an amazing experience right at the start of my career.
DFB.de: You joined 1860 Munich while you were very young. After that you moved on to Wolfsburg and then Augsburg. How important was your time at 1860?
Uduokhai: Every move meant another step in my development. Everything fitted really well at 1860. I was able to move through the youth teams and I was given the time to mature and become a professional player. My first year as a pro was a crazy time with a few managerial changes, but still a special year. I learned a lot in Wolfsburg as well and grew up a bit more.
DFB.de: FC Augsburg then brought you in on loan in 2019 before using their option to buy this summer. What does the club mean to you?
Uduokhai: The club using the option to buy was a nice sign of how much they value me. I am grateful for the trust that they place in me here. For me, Augsburg is a club that works quietly and has that certain humility. We still work on proper football here. My aim is to work on my own game so that I can help the club and give something back. I see it as a hardworking club that has established itself in the Bundesliga over the years. That speaks for itself.
DFB.de: Your former coach Martin Schmidt, who knows you from your time together at both Wolfsburg and Augsburg, reckons that you can become one of the best left-backs in Germany. What do you make of such high praise?
Uduokhai: I’m obviously happy when I hear things like that, but he is also only saying what I can become. The opportunity and the potential is there and I definitely see that within myself, but I have to fulfil that potential. Actions speak louder than words.
DFB.de: The DFB are also well aware of your progress. You represented Germany at U19, U20 and U21 level before receiving your first senior call-up at the end of October. How much of a surprise was that call?
Uduokhai: There were no signs that it was coming – I hadn’t expected it at that point in time. I was really happy to be called up. I had a great few days being around the national team – I was able to get to know the coaching staff and the other players, as well as learning how everything goes.
DFB.de: Did head coach Joachim Löw call you personally?
Uduokhai: His assistant Marcus Sorg called me. It wasn’t as spectacular as some people may think; I already knew Marcus from when he was my coach with the U19s, so it was all chilled and relaxed.
DFB.de: Were you nervous meeting the team for the first time?
Uduokhai: Yeah, that’s normal. Everything is new so you’re always a little nervous, but they took me in really nicely. The nerves were gone by the end of that first day.
DFB.de: You didn’t manage to make an appearance in any of the three matches. Were you somewhat disappointed?
Uduokhai: I had hoped that I’d be given my debut and that I’d get to play, no question. I’m too competitive not to have those aspirations, but what hasn’t happened yet can still happen in the future. I’m not making a fuss about it. I will just keep on working and sooner or later my time will come.
DFB.de: How do you rate your chances of being selected for the Euros next year? Did the Germany coaches give you any feedback?
Uduokhai: We had a chat, but not about how things look for the Euros. The Olympic Games are another possibility for me. Both are huge tournaments which are really appealing. I will keep giving it my all and it would be amazing if I am there for one of those two tournaments.