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Budapest (dpa) - In the great joy of reaching the EM quarter-finals, Stefan Kuntz loved to look forward to exciting months.
"I am glad that we will at least have another appearance on the big stage," said the national coach of the German U21 footballers after the minimum goal had been achieved. Like his young national team, Kuntz, who was asked again about his national coaching ambitions after the 0-0 win against Romania in Budapest, looked extremely exhausted - and relieved.
At the end of May, the selection can compete in the knockout phase with other top teams, the semi-finals and final should follow by June 6th. "That is good for the young players in their development, and it is good for this year to show whether there is more to them," said Kuntz, who thanked his players. "I take off my hat to you."
His EM-Guard, classified as weaker, proved absolute tournament suitability. "Many players have taken another step in their development and made a step forward. We have crowned it a bit," said Ridle Baku, the only one with experience in the senior national team. The party music "Bierkönig" was celebrated in the cabin and on the plane.
Ideally, the big celebration should follow the knockout round of the tournament, which was divided into two parts due to the corona pandemic, one of the next challenges in this unusual year for Kuntz. The 58-year-old remains in the group of candidates to succeed national coach Joachim Löw. "If someone at the DFB thinks we'll talk to Stefan, they'll call me and I'll answer it," said the laughing Kuntz. "But I haven't thought about anything else yet."
His success with the U21 generation, who have significantly less experience and talent than their predecessors, could well be interpreted as a letter of application. "He's just an outstanding coach," emphasized captain Arne Maier.
Kuntz has two months until the knockout phase of the EM, in the quarter-finals on May 31st in Szekesfehervar Denmark, France or Russia are the possible opponents. "Now we will analyze it in peace and then we will go to work," said Kuntz. He is allowed to nominate a new squad in May, but he did not want to commit himself to seeded players or wobbly candidates. "What can happen in football in two months is enormous," said Kuntz. The next challenge awaits only a good six weeks after the European Championship finals: the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The planning of the turbulent year for Kuntz is accompanied by the uncertainties of the corona pandemic. "At the moment so many things are unusual that you just have to see where the chance lies for me and how do I make the best of it," said the 58-year-old. After all: Kuntz can probably prepare his team for the knockout phase of the EM with a training camp, which was not possible before the group phase. "Then we have the chance to develop further," said the coach, who was particularly satisfied with his defense.
Amos Pieper, Nico Schlotterbeck, Josha Vagnoman and David Raum established themselves as a stable back four in the three games in Hungary, before that Maier and Niklas Dorsch were convincing in the defensive midfield. "There was a level of stability on the defensive that wasn't to be expected," said Kuntz, praising his defense. The only goal conceded in the three preliminary rounds resulted from the serious mistake by keeper Finn Dahmen in the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands.
On the offensive, however, Kuntz still has a lot of work ahead of him, as the coach himself admitted: "There are a lot of things to improve. But that takes the longest to work out with a team," said the ex-striker. His selection scored four goals in three games, but especially against Romania it would have been significantly more possible. Lukas Nmecha put a hand penalty on the post (72nd minute), Pieper failed on the crossbar. This is one of the reasons why the U21s had to tremble for a long time.
Kuntz left it open whether the exceptional talent Youssoufa Moukoko can celebrate his U21 debut in the knockout round and ensure more goal danger. The 16-year-old from Borussia Dortmund, who would be the youngest German U21 national player in a game, missed the group games because of a bruised shin. "I won't give any player a promise that they'll be back next time," said the U21 coach. "There are two months in between." Time enough for Kuntz to tinker with his squad - and to answer open questions.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210331-99-35882 / 5
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