10.06.2021Bayer 04

Florian Wirtz: Request from father, praise from the coach

The 2020/21 season could hardly have been better for Florian Wirtz from a sporting perspective. After making 38 appearances and being involved in 16 goals in his first full season, he can now call himself a U21 European Champion. In an interview with, the Werkself youngster looks back at the European Championship and he also speaks about the emotions associated with the triumph.

Florian, ahead of the U21 European Championship finals most people didn't see Germany as favourites for the title. What was special about the Germany U21s in the finals?
Wirtz: "I think it was our strong team spirit above all. Everybody in the team accepted their role, left their egos behind and exclusively thought about how best they can help the U21s. That meant everybody could produce their best and bring their energy onto the pitch."

At what moment did you feel: We can make history at this tournament?
Wirtz: "I actually never thought about the final. First of all, I wanted to focus on the quarter-final against Denmark where we didn't look so convincing and were fortunate to go through. From the semi-final, we felt we could do it. From then you started thinking about what it would be like to end up holding up the trophy in the stadium."

You almost won the semi-final single-handed. After the two goals were there more or less messages than after your Bundesliga debut in Bremen or the first Bundesliga goal against Manuel Neuer?
Wirtz: "I got a lot of messages again this time – from former and current teammates, from former coaches but also from friends and family. I'm obviously happy about that but the best thing about the two goals was that they took us to the final."

People say about you that you don't get big headed after such brilliant performances and that positive comments don't go to your head. In addition to your parents, did perhaps your neighbour in the room next door bring you back down to earth. Or were you allowed to have the remote control as you were the youngest?
Wirtz: "Of course, being the youngest in the team I couldn't allow myself to be big headed or to act as if everything was down to me –it was always clear to me: We have earned everything as a team. The 1-0 win against the Netherlands was also a really good performance. I know I can't be big headed because of my goals. So the other lads in the team don't have to keep my feet on the ground – because I don't give them any opportunity for that. (He laughs)"

The U21 coach Stefan Kuntz has again and again shown in recent years what he can tease out of the German youth players. What do you think are his biggest qualities as a coach and what's special about him in general?
Wirtz: "Stefan Kuntz communicates really well with every single player. He treats everybody with respect and above all equally – whether you’re from the Bundesliga, the second division or some other league. That makes him very strong. He always does well in preparing us for the opposition so that we always have the tactics that allow us show our own strengths while at the same time denying those of the opposition."

Stefan Kuntz announced after the game that he was looking forward to individual conversations with his players where he could again look at the development of each individual. Have you had your conversation and, if yes, what did he say to you?
Wirtz: "He said to me, in the time between my first match for the U21s and now I have developed as a person but also in relation to the team structure. I've become an important part of the team and I have a better connection to the individual teammates. He was very happy about that for me."


He has become an important part of the Germany U21 side: Florian Wirtz (second right).

You made 38 appearances for Bayer 04 in the Bundesliga in the season just gone and have already been able to gain experience at a very high level. What's the difference with the football at a U21 European Championship where no player is older than 23?
"Of course, there are differences in the style of play. The different nations at the U21 Euros also have their own playing philosophy. You see in certain situations that opponents are sometimes more physical in challenges than is the case for example in the Bundesliga. With the U21 side it was very intensive because everybody is still very young and can expend a lot of energy all over the pitch. That also means there are a lot of crunching challenges."

Your teammate Niklas Dorsch was promised roast pork knuckle and a pot roast by his grandma as motivation to win. What did your friends and family do for you before the final?
"My father was there for the whole tournament and visited me before the final. He gave me courage. Ahead of the semi-final, he even said to me I should score two goals, which I ended up doing (he laughs). My siblings also came to the final. That gave me even more strength when I saw them as I came on. I spoke to lots of people who were all happy for me. Everybody was proud that we, the U21s, managed to get to the final and then they told me we had to bring the trophy home."

On Instagram you could be seen in the dressing room with a Bluetooth loudspeaker after the final. The song 'Schatzi, schenk mir ein Foto' (Darling, give me a photo) was booming out of the speakers. How did that come about and you like being the focus of attention in celebrations as you do on the pitch?
"We wanted to listen to a bit of party music. Salih (Özcan, ed) is from Cologne so he enjoys high spirits. But this time I was rather reserved as the dressing room DJ. At the Euros, that was more a job for ‘Dorschi’ (Niklas Dorsch, ed.).”

The pre-season at the Werkself begins on 5 July. What are your plans before that? How do you switch off?
"I definitely want to spend one or two weeks on holiday with my friends. Also I want to enjoy the time with family and friends at home and see everybody as often as possible. Of course, it wouldn't be bad if the weather plays along. Just to get away from football, from school – from everything. Obviously I have to keep fit but a bit of a break will be allowed. The season was quite hard work."

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