"We're proud to still be in it," says Marian Asch as he and Mario Marinić preview Württemberg's game against Zagreb, when a final place is at stake.
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The world's top amateur tournament does not do massive games, but if it did, Württemberg v Zagreb on Wednesday at Home Farm would meet the criteria. The German team must beat their impressive Croatian rivals to win Group B and make it to the UEFA Regions' Cup final.
Michael Rentschler's side have – by their own admission – blown hot and cold in Dublin; they were 2-0 down and a man up at half-time in their opener against Eastern Region NIR, fighting back to draw 2-2, and left it late to beat Dolnośląski in their second game. "First game, we conceded two through very bad defending, and after that we started playing," captain Marian Asch told UEFA.com. "In the win, we had trouble scoring again - hitting the bar, passing up good chances."
The 27-year-old forward – a student who plays for FSV Bissingen in Germany's fifth tier – knows it only gets harder from here on. "It will be pretty close," he added, looking ahead to Wednesday's game. "Zagreb won both of their games, and we struggled. They are a good team." Team-mate Mario Marinić added: "Croatian sides play football – they are very dynamic, with good control: they play an attacking game."
The name may have given him away, but 30-year-old supersub Marinić has more than a nodding acquaintance with Croatia. Born in Germany, his parents are from Split, and – noting that his mother had gently suggested he might choose not to play against her home country – may have split loyalties when it comes to playing Zagreb. "It's not easy because I am here to play for Germany," the insurance specialist and TSG Backnang man explained. "That's my role, but my heart is in Croatia."
Hearts in Dublin, meanwhile, have been warmed by a small contingent of fans here to follow Württemberg's Marius Kunde, chanting his name at matches, much to the bemusement of their opponents. Asch and his team-mates had to drag him from his bedroom last night to show the Dolnośląski players exactly who the Kunde Ultras were singing about. The Polish side ended up carrying the player on their shoulders and chanting his name too. Let's say it was late.
Who gets carried shoulder high after Wednesday's game is a more pressing issue in the team hotel, with Asch – a veteran of the 2011 finals – hoping their biggest challenge yet can finally get Württemberg's creative juices flowing. "Getting to the final would be great; that's what we're here for," he said. "We are proud to still be in it. There are five teams that are going home, and now we have the final before the final. And wearing the eagle on your shirt is always something special."
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