In the latest in a series of interviews with top Euro 2008 players, DW-WORLD.DE spoke with young German defender Marcell Jansen about importance of the fans' support and the differences between the World and Euro Cups.
Jansen started his Bundesliga career with Borussia Moenchengladbach
Marcell Jansen, 22, was the youngest player on the German national team during the 2006 World Cup. He cheered the more senior players from the bench -- until Germany's last game against Portugal for third place. Jansen's helped his team to victory by keeping star Cristiano Ronaldo at bay.
Now a member of FC Bayern Munich, Jansen began his career with Borussia Moenchengladbach. He has been on the national team since 2005.
DW-WORLD.DE: Marcell Jansen, on the German national team you represent a new generation of soccer. Will being younger have a positive effect on the team's performance at Euro 2008?
Marcell Jansen: I think that we've made good developments in general, especially as far as the mix of young and old is concerned. We didn't just play a good World Cup, we've also played a good Euro qualifying campaign.
We also know that none of that counts anymore in a tournament like this; you just have to keep going forward and focusing on the details. The team spirit has to be strong, especially the team work. If we have that, we're sure to play another positive tournament.
During the World Cup, you had to sit on the bench because you were new to the national team. Is the European Championship like a final test for you?
Yeah, well, there's always some kind of final test. I was the youngest player during the World Cup, but then got to play against Cristiano Ronaldo for third place. That was definitely a final exam that turned out well.
I think you can see development, from the club to the international qualifiers. That's why I don't really see it as a final test; instead I'm looking forward to it. I want to get better and better, and part of that is going to major tournaments where you grow as a team and an individual.
The hosts of the Euro are Austria and Switzerland, which is almost like playing at home. That's good for us because it's not very far away and I think that we'll have a lot of support.
The German Soccer Federation will organize everything perfectly again and we can concentrate on playing soccer. It will be great because our team gets along and we have a good time. We're looking forward to it.
Jansen was key in last month's qualifier against Serbia
A continuation of the World Cup success?
Yes, it should continue for me. It would be cool if it stayed like that. It's apparent that we're unified with our fans. It was fantastic at the World Cup, it was great at the Euro qualifiers and it should keep growing. We're very happy to have this kind of support. It was unbelievable during the World Cup and even right now for the Euro. It's clear that there's a country here that's sticking together.
That should be our goal in general, even if things don't go so well at times -- especially then, but we'll see how it goes. We already got a sense of unity with our fans during the Euro qualifiers.
The main protagonists from 2006 are playing again in the Euro -- world champions Italy, vice-world champions France, Germany who finished in third place, and Portugal who came fourth. Will the Euro be more challenging than the World Cup?
Yes, it's a bit tighter and more compact. There are a lot of high quality teams. They're coming up against each other right at the beginning and that's maybe the difference from the World Cup. But both situations are tough.
Hosts Austria, Croatia and Poland are also in Group B, your group. What are Germany's chances of moving on?
We always have a chance. The fact is, you shouldn't underestimate the group or say it's the luck of the draw. I don't see it like that. Croatia knocked England out. Poland played a great qualifier against Austria.
Everything will be demanded of us and nothing's been won yet! I think we know that, too.
National coach Joachim Loew, has consciously rejected the term "title favorites" in order to soften the expectations. Is the extra caution really necessary?
At the Euro, nearly everyone's a favorite. In soccer today, you can't say, "they'll be the European champions" or "that's an easy final." We've had surprises in the past. Of course some teams have a certain basic stability that we've seen. There are a lot of these teams -- I could practically count off too many. It just depends on the tournament and how the team is on that day.
How do you expect Germany to fare at the Euro?
I'm not one to talk about ifs and woulds. But if everything works in the team, together with the fans, we'll play a good tournament. I don't want to commit to anything. The goal is the final, of course. It's the reason you go, that's clear. But I'm not big-headed and that's why I'd say a good start in the first game would be a huge step in the right direction for me and for us.