Stefan Kuntz exclusive: Germany under-21s head coach on England leading youth development and Euro '96 memories

Stefan Kuntz speaks about Germany's chances at Euro 2020

Stefan Kuntz is a name that needs no introduction in English football. His goal at Wembley in the semi-finals of Euro '96 played its part as the Three Lions crashed out of the tournament on home soil.

He made 25 appearances for Die Mannschaft during the mid-1990s but managed to net just one goal at a major tournament for his country. That one goal would prove to be a stand-out moment in English football history.

Kuntz has since moved into management, entrusted with bringing through the next generation of talent for a nation which has four World Cup stars above its crest as Germany's under-21s head coach.

His appointment has proven to be a good one. Germany's youth set-up completed a transformation from a side that did not qualify for the UEFA Under-21 Championship in 2011 to one that lifted the trophy in 2017.

But speaking exclusively to Sporting Life, Kuntz admitted that Germany is back now playing catch-up to others, in particular England, when it comes to producing the next batch of talent.

"I don't want to make the English guys happy but England, and not only England but Portugal, Spain and France too, they have overtaken us in development of the younger generation," he said.

"We are now thinking about how we can develop the younger generation so that we can find a small turnaround.

Jadon Sancho has been a star for Borussia Dortmund and England

"England did it 10 years ago. This is a really big task. There are so many people and institutions involved, so it not so easy to change something.

"We are working on that. But for the future, I think we have to lower our expectations a bit."

Germany may have dominated parts of youth football in recent years but England have experienced a revival of their own. The under-20s team won the World Cup in 2017 while the under-17s also achieved global success in the same year.

Youngsters such as Jadon Sancho, James Maddison, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham have all made senior squads as England look to build upon a semi-final appearance at the World Cup in 2018 - their best performance at the tournament since Italia '90.

Germany meanwhile crashed out at the group stages in Russia as defeats to Mexico and South Korea left them bottom of Group F. That came just four years after winning the World Cup in Brazil.

UEFA recently announced the postponement of Euro 2020 to 2021 - and England already find themselves as the 9/2 favourites to lift the trophy.

Despite crashing out at the first hurdle in 2018, Germany are still the 7/1 fourth-favourites to win Euro 2021 after a qualifying campaign that led to them gaining seven wins from a possible eight.

Stefan Kuntz in conversation with Aidy Boothroyd

However, discussing the tournament prior to the announcement that it will be put back a year, Kuntz believes that a semi-final appearance could be a reasonable target for Germany.

"It depends a little bit on the circumstances and how the tournament is running," said Kuntz, speaking at the Football Tactical Insights conference at Leicester's King Power Stadium, a meeting of some of the top analysts and coaches from around world football.

"If we really have an unlucky loss in the semi-final, for example, this would be acceptable."

His presentation in Leicester revolved around the transformation of Germany's under-21s side, looking at the tactical changes alongside aiding personal development and managing the emotional side of a squad. It even started with a plea to not reveal to his mother what his name sounds like in English.

Of course, the final slide 'accidentally' played a video of his goal in the semi-final at Wembley. His goal-scoring exploits were certainly a talent; his acting skills portraying his confusion could not be classed as the same.

Stefan Kuntz in action at Euro 96

Kuntz then revealed that he has fond memories of the last major men's tournament to be held in England, but not just because of the outcome of the tournament.

"It was my biggest dream when I was a young boy, to play once at Wembley Stadium," he concluded.

"This was for us, in Germany, the biggest point you can reach. That I could do it in the old Wembley, it fulfilled a lifelong dream.

"I think that the supporters in England are marvellous. They are unbelievable.

"I will never forget that when we left the pitch after the semi-final, the England team was already in the locker room, they gave a standing ovation.

"This fairness inside the English football supporters is amazing. I love it, I love the tradition in English football and of course I come back to England with a lot of happiness in my heart all the time."


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