Toni Kroos is a pretty useful fellow for Germany to have around in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Belgium. Not only does the playmaker have the experience of reaching the semi-finals last season, but his talent is such that FC Bayern München coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has already identified youth player Kroos as a prospect for the future and invited him to senior training.
Kroos's performance last night in the opening Group A encounter against Ukraine justified Hitzfeld's good opinion. Kroos pulled the strings for his side in Eupen, and late on secured a more than deserved 2-0 win with a powerful shot that would probably have made its way over the nearby German border had the net not stopped the ball in its tracks. "It was a great ball from Kevin Wolze," Kroos told uefa.com. "I just hit it perfectly - I could not have struck it any better. The victory was deserved. We played better than Ukraine - we played well from the start. Ukraine had few chances to score so I am very satisfied."
A year ago in Luxembourg, Germany also began with a fine win, with Kroos converting a penalty in a 4-0 defeat of Belgium, but after reaching the semi-finals they fell to a late goal by surprise champions Russia. Kroos is still driven by the memory of that loss. "We were better than Russia last year," he said. "We were unlucky to lose and I am very motivated to win. That's certainly possible with this team, but there are hard matches to come against France and Spain so we have to improve."
Kroos knows that he has an important role to play in that - but steps back from marking himself out as the key man. "Naturally I have the most experience but I am just one member of the team," he said. "I can help the team with that experience, but I am just one of them."
Though Kroos has already played a friendly with the Bayern first team he is modest about his status at the club. "We are going for the youth championship in Germany," he said. "I hope to be in the reserves next year and then maybe in the next few years I will be in the Bayern first team." Kroos clearly has hit feet on the ground but there is no doubt he is reaching for the stars.
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