Chisinau (dpa) – U21 national coach Stefan Kuntz is again a much sought-after optimist. Because cancellations, injuries and obstacles as a result of the corona pandemic are preparing the German U21 footballers for the important double in the European Championship qualification in Moldova and against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“We are not one of those who moaned from the start. We look ahead and we have good young players,” said Kuntz before the match in Moldova on Friday (6:15 pm / ProSieben Maxx), in the for youth squad. Fight for the EM ticket, only one win counts.
A good month after the 1: 4 in Belgium and the biggest defeat in Kuntz’s tenure as U21 coach, the team urgently needs points for the European Championship qualification. With three games to go, the DFB-Elf is in second place one point behind Belgium in their pool. “We have changed the goal of the group win to the goal of three wins,” said Kuntz, referring to the last qualifying match against Wales in November. “We want to get nine points and then we see what comes out. Qualification has the highest priority and we stick to it.” The nine group winners and the five best runners-up buy the EM tickets.
The corona pandemic in particular makes it difficult for the DFB Juniors to qualify for the European Championship. The Salzburg Mergim Berisha is in team quarantine after a positive corona test at his club, the Bremer Felix Agu did not receive approval from his club due to a regulation of the health department. “Now we need a little more flexibility, but that makes it attractive,” said Kuntz, who also had to accept injury-related cancellations by Arne Maier, Nico Schlotterbeck and Robin Hack and therefore nominated seven newcomers.
“The corona-related failures are also an opportunity for the other players. They will have the opportunity to present themselves on a very good stage,” said Kuntz. Despite the corona whirlwind, he approaches the game in Moldova with great confidence: “Almost every country has these problems. We will not use that as an excuse.”
The 57-year-old is not worried about the trip to Chisinau, although Moldova with its approximately 3.5 million inhabitants reported the record value of 1,022 new corona infections within 24 hours on October 1. “We will stay in the country as short as possible. Organizing everything is great, I’m not worried,” he said. In the corona bubble of the DFB “the tests are even more frequent than in the Bundesliga”.
With all the cancellations and issues, Kuntz can also look forward to two personal details: 17-year-old Florian Wirtz is about to make his U21 debut, Borussia Dortmund’s Felix Passlack after three years before returning. “We are of course happy to have such a great talent with us. He has skills that we normally could not cover with our team,” praised Kuntz Wirtz, who could replace Julian Draxler on Friday as the youngest U21 international.