Timo Werner (22) has had a good start to the season both with RB Leipzig and on a personal level. Werner does what strikers are meant to: he scores goals. However, there’s something to note – his six Bundesliga goals this season have come from three braces. Werner spoke to DFB.de about the World Cup in Russia, the fresh start afterwards, and his role in the national side.
DFB.de: The fresh start with the national team has begun, and we’ve shaken off the World Cup. Would you agree?
Timo Werner: Essentially, yes, but we’ve played France twice. When you’re competing against the world champions, you can’t really start again and your thoughts turn back towards the World Cup. However, we’re looking forward now and we’re focussed on the future. Things move quickly in football, and following the World Cup we’ve then got the Nations League – the goal is to qualify for Euro 2020.
DFB.de: People often complain about how fast things move in football. Is it sometimes an advantage though, if something doesn’t go so well?
Werner: It’s good that you get another chance to change things so quickly. We know that we can’t put the World Cup exit right with just one of two games. However, we have the chance to get goals and show people that the national team is on the right track. At the Euros in two years, we’ll finally be able to prove that we can do better than we did in Russia this summer.
DFB.de: The year will obviously be overshadowed by the World Cup exit, but what positives do you think we can take from this year?
Werner: I can’t find a lot of good really. We’ve just got to be honest – we weren’t convincing in the games leading up to the World Cup either and it’s not worth sugar-coating things. In Russia, the game against Sweden with the drama of a late win was a highlight, but it’s overshadowed by what came afterwards.
DFB.de: Are there no situations or moments at the World Cup that you can look back on and smile?
Werner: The experience of a World Cup is obviously extraordinary and worthwhile. The feeling of representing your country, hearing the national anthem and knowing that the whole world is watching on, the whole atmosphere at a tournament – they’re massive experiences and they allow you to mature and grow.
DFB.de: You said after the World Cup that you watched the knockout stages and that was almost like rubbing salt into the wound. Why did you do that?
Werner: Well because I’m a football fan and because it’s the World Cup. Of course it hurt but the knockout games were very interesting, exciting and entertaining games. If you get knocked out of the DFB-Pokal you still watch the final, just like you would for the Champions League. The World Cup only comes around once every four years. I think it’s good to follow the tournament all the way through.
DFB.de: How many games did you watch?
Werner: Not all of them but when there was nothing else on TV then I’d have a look at what was going on in Russia.
DFB.de: What shows would be interesting enough to make you not watch the World Cup?
Werner: Good question, actually probably nothing. (laughs)
DFB.de: Did you watch the games just as a football fan or as a professional footballer, focussing on specific players?
Werner: The best players in the world are at the World Cup, such as Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, Mbappé, Hazard, Griezmann, Pogba – it would be foolish of me to say that I don’t focus on certain players. However, I don’t look at the games and focus on the moves and tactics of other players. It’s not as simple as that. I know that I won’t ever have the Neymar’s elegance when dribbling or Messi’s ball skills, even if I worked on it forever. Therefore every player must find their own thing and their own way.
DFB.de: The international game being Leipzig makes it an almost double home game for you. Does that make it special for you? Or is it not a big difference playing an international match in Leipzig as it is playing one anywhere else in Germany?
Werner: I’ve been at Leipzig for two and a half years now so I would say that an international game being held in the city makes it a special one for me. I feel at home in Leipzig, the fans have always supported me here. So for me it’s great that the national team gets to play in front of the Leipzig crowd. It’s also always enjoyable to have an international game in the city you live in. I know the pitch well and if we have little space, I know myself and know where to go. The game for Leipzig will then be, for me at least, an international like no other.
DFB.de: You had another double home game in 2017 when Stuttgart hosted the game against Norway. What memories do you have of that?
Werner: For me it was a really great experience. I left Stuttgart in a phase where the club was in a fairly bad place. As a result I didn’t really know what kind of reaction I’d get from the fans and had mixed feelings about the game. Then when we started I was supported right from the off, with encouragement from all sides. It was just brilliant. The farewell from the fans in the stadium was simply outstanding.
DFB.de: Leipzig, or more specifically RB Leipzig, is a special place in the context of football. How do you feel about the Leipzig fans?
Werner: We have a family in the stadium with lots of children. It’s an extremely amazing crowd, very respectful. There’s no violence among us, nothing disparaging. The atmosphere is magnificent; our fans are always showing their love for football, our club and our play. In the region, it’s always quite special to see Bundesliga football here. You just realise that the enthusiasm for our team is not only massive but also everywhere. I’m also really happy now that the national team will also get to experience playing in front of the Leipzig crowd. Especially since Bundesliga and international games are unlike any other.
DFB.de: How do you see the development of the national team after the World Cup?
Werner: Positive. There was setback with the game against the Netherlands. But in both games against France we were not any worse than the world champions. We had good chances and we were very unfortunate, we could have won both games. Unfortunately for us that wasn’t the case. Of course that’s a shame because it would have been good after the unimpressive World Cup to make a real statement. In essence, these games showed that we are in a good shape and that we must not worry about any opposition.
DFB.de: You have been a German international since March 2017. How happy are you with your development in the national team?
Werner: Every call-up is an honour for me. I don’t think that will ever change. I will never find it normal to play on the same team as the best players in the country. The level in training is very high and it’s just so fun. For me it’s a great thing that I feel so accepted and know that I can help the team with my abilities.
DFB.de: You have 21 games and eight goals under your belt. What do you make of this record?
Werner: Yeah that’s in no way a bad record. Of course, when you see how many great teams we’ve played in recent times: Spain, England, Brazil, France three times, a World Cup, the Confederations Cup. We’ve had almost no “small” internationals where I could perhaps think about increasing my ratio.
DFB.de: To expand more on your international record, you only have one assist for Germany. At your club you have a considerably higher amount...
Werner: I know I have to work on that. Although I should say it’s not because of me wanting to be more egotistical in my play when playing for Germany. In the national team we can look to improve our efficiency, finishing and making opportunities and of course I can improve those things individually as well.
DFB.de: Germany is close to relegation in the Nations League A-League. How important is it for the team’s progress to prevent that from happening?
Werner: Unfortunately it’s out of our hands now. It’s not like we would all lose interest if we were to go down but it’s both beneficial and important for us to stay up. What is clear is that, while the Nations League is important, it isn’t more important that next year’s European qualifiers.
DFB.de: How strong do you reckon the Russians are?
Werner: The Russian team showed the quality they are capable of producing during the World Cup. They almost made it to the semi-finals and were very strong. They play with very straight lines, without anything flashy or too efficient. As a result we’re expecting a good game against good opponents.
DFB.de: How important would a win be, especially taking into account the game in Gelsenkirchen against Holland?
Werner: If we take a victory with us from Leipzig that will obviously have an effect on the feeling within the team. Every win makes us stronger.