Road to Prague
Failing to qualify for a major tournament is a fate that has befallen more than just a few teams over the years, including some who'd thought it would all be plain sailing. Not so the German Under-21 national team. Eager to make up for the rather underwhelming showing at the final round of the 2013 European Championship, the newly-formed team's stated objective was to present themselves with a new outlook and a refreshing style of football.
»"Fantastic rewards, such as reaching the finals at the EURO 2015 in the Czech Republic or even qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games are goals for the future."«
Horst Hrubesch, U21-Head Coach
Germany got off to a flying start in the first three group games, with three wins, nine goals for, and none against. Up front Leitner, Volland, and Hofmann bewitched defenses with their pace and creativity, in the back the likes of Mustafi, Ginter, and Durm ran a tight ship. The latter three were even called up to the senior team squad for the 2014 World Cup tournament in Brazil where, as readers will surely remember, Germany lifted the trophy.
No such fireworks graced the following three matches, though. The second-leg game against the Faroe Islands turned out a laboured 3-2 win, the players from the North-Atlantic even taking the lead twice. November 2013 saw two draws, away to Montenegro and Romania, respectively. However, in the return match, the Romanians were at the receiving end of an 8-0 drubbing, with eight different German players getting on the score-sheet. Next came the play-offs against Ukraine, and anyone who saw the team perform realized that this was a side that had gone through thick and thin together. Forward Kevin Volland summed it up when he said: "We're so happy 'cause this has been a team effort if there's ever been one!"
Head coach Horst Hrubesch has carefully managed the team's makeover. Taking charge in June 2013, he had said: "Coaching the Under-21s is a highly interesting mission and could have some fantastic rewards, such as reaching the finals at the EURO 2015 in the Czech Republic or even qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games." Well, he has ticked off the first item on his particular agenda, with two more to go – winning the trophy in Prague and booking the ticket to Rio de Janeiro.
»"We're so happy 'cause this has been a team effort if there's ever been one!"«
Kevin Volland - Captain