In just over five months from now Germany's Under 21 football team will head to the European Championships in the Czech Republic. Team coach Horst Hrubesch talked to DW about his expectations for the tournament.
DW: This year the Under 21 European Championships will be taking place in the Czech Republic, starting on June 17. What do you expect from your team in the tournament?
Horst Hrubesch: The way we played in the qualifiers, and with the big squad that we have, we should definitely be competitive. We seem to be the top favorites if you listen to what the other teams in the competition are saying. We will definitely be aiming for the title.
How do you form a U21 team, when the players keep changing so much?
You just have to keep an eye on it all the time. Some develop faster, others need a little bit more time. Then others get injured, while other players only get to play very infrequently at their home club. You have a real mix of people to work with, which you have to form together. That's the crucial factor. But we also have an advantage in this squad that we have good individual players, good team players and lots of players who have a strong character. That's why I will be heading to the Czech Republic full of confidence.
Will the team also be good enough to qualify for the Olympics?
Well, you have to finish in fourth position or better, before you can start thinking about getting the team to the Olympics. I hope that all players just get through the preparations well. Hopefully, they will stay healthy and get plenty of game time.
What is the main strength of this team? Will some of your players make it into Germany's first men's team soon perhaps?
I think we have shown recently that we can keep a clean sheet, without reducing our potency in attack. The only thing that we perhaps need to look at currently is our poor conversion rate in front of goal, despite many good chances. When I think about the last game in the Czech Republic for instance, in the second half we had seven or eight 100 percent chances but we only scored once. We have to do some work there I think.
There are a lot of young players who can take the next step to a higher level of football. Please don't ask me who. Normally, I just say, "all of them." Put it this way: there are definitely a bunch of them that can make the step up to the next level. No doubt about it.
For a while many people thought that young footballers just wanted to gel their hair and look good on the pitch. Since when have you seen a new generation that really is determined to scrap it out on the pitch?
I haven't noticed that there has been any major change. Back in my day, we had guys that liked to gel their hair. I can remember that well and things haven't changed now. A big factor actually is that the guys aren't different now to how we used to be when we were playing. They are all keen and they are prepared to work hard. You have to appreciate that so much pressure is on these kids. They are not really able to live a normal teenage life anymore. You have to help them enjoy their youth, that's actually important. I don't think things are easy for these youngsters. They have to perform for their club, they have to play well for us, they have get their studies done and then they have to be nice to everyone in public life too.
So how can you still keep things fun for the players?
You just have to communicate with them. If you have a player that perhaps isn't playing as well as he should be, then that normally is because of a specific reason. The coaches know what he is capable of. You have to really understand them. One thing that is really important is that they help each other, and look out for each other. If they have fun, they feel good and then a positive mentality can develop. If you have that, then you can play well and enjoy yourself.
Horst Hrubesch has been working for years as a coach with Germany's junior national teams. Currently he coaches the U21 DFB team, but he had his first success with the U19s in 2008, when he won the European Championships. As an active player, Hrubesch played 21 games for Germany and in 1980 he was part of the EURO-winning German team. In the Bundesliga, he scored 136 goals in 224 matches and also won a number of titles.