Former Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur FC midfielder Steffen Freund was in Germany's EURO '96-winning squad – and now aims to coach his nation to glory at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Serbia. As he prepares to face the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Romania from 3 May in his first final tournament as a coach, Freund spoke to UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your draw?
Steffen Freund: It is a difficult draw. Against the Netherlands, it is always a massive game. It is not easy to beat them. The Czech Republic are really strong, they beat Italy in the elite round. And Romania have been unbeaten for a long time and in the [qualifying] round were the best team. Of course no group is easy; in the others you have the hosts, France, Denmark and England. I think it is the perfect draw for all of the teams.
UEFA.com: Your ambition is to win back the trophy?
Freund: Of course, that's why we have worked together for one-and-a-half years. We won all six qualification games, that gives you a lot of confidence. But you have to play all the games and the European Championship is the first experience for my boys under big pressure, that's why you can't be too positive. Of course, we are Germany, we have the confidence to beat anyone.
UEFA.com: You achieved a lot as a player: does that give you something extra as a youth coach?
Freund: They are fantastic young football players. [I can] give something back with my experience of 17 years as a professional footballer in England and Germany. I won a few titles, silverware for Germany too. And that's what I want at the moment. I love being here and would love to win something with the U17s.
UEFA.com: You had experience of youth competition with the old East Germany...
Freund: I played in the European U18 Championship in Czechoslovakia, in 1988. We came third, then I played in the [FIFA] U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia in 1989. We went out in the first round with my mistake. Then I had the experience of EURO '96 and the 1998 World Cup. That's why I am really happy with my job at the moment and it's great to be here.
UEFA.com: What would it mean to qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico by coming in the top three in your group?
Freund: To play against teams from other continents would be a fantastic experience for my boys, but first you have to be in the top three, which isn't easy. Of course that's what we want, and we are really close but it is better to go step by step and play the first three games in the group.
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