"I don’t think it could have been any tougher," says the Real Madrid midfielder.
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Now 31, Toni Kroos is one of the senior figures in the Germany side that will kick off UEFA EURO 2020 looking to mark the end of Joachim Löw’s 15-year reign as national-team coach with their first UEFA European Championship success since 1996.
World champions in 2014, Germany have had a frustrating time at recent EUROs: they were runners-up in 2008, then losing semi-finalists in the last two tournaments. However, the Real Madrid man is hoping their luck will turn as they challenge holders Portugal, world champions France and outsiders Hungary in Group F.
On 'Group of Death' opponents Portugal, France and Hungary
I don’t think it could have been any tougher. Nevertheless, we're looking forward to it. These are the kinds of matches you would expect from the quarter-finals or semi-finals onwards. But that’s the way it is now. It’ll be important that we get into our best form right away, otherwise it’ll be very difficult to make it far.
I think [this generation] is very strong. Except for a couple of games – and it’s normal that there are setbacks after the changes we’ve had – we’re on a good path. You look at where the players are playing, which says a lot, and the majority of them also have a very important role at big clubs, whether it’s Bayern or big clubs in other countries. I think that says everything about the quality.
On Germany’s recent EURO drought
Why haven’t Germany won more EUROs since 1996? Well, first and foremost, because there were other talented teams. Germany have shown in recent European Championships that they were always among the favourites – if you make it to the semi-finals or even the final, you count as a favourite and you've demonstrated it. But there are other teams with very high quality that have the same goal.
In the semi-finals or final, it’s always about which team performs better on the day and the events that occur during the match, which you can’t always foresee or prepare for. I recall 2016 against France, when we were the better team [in the semi-final]. With one unlucky moment – a penalty against us – they went 1-0 up and it was hard to get back into the game. So there are certain situations you can’t prepare for, and that is also a good thing, but I think we’ve shown in the last Championships that we’re able to make it far.
On Joachim Löw’s impending departure
Fifteen years [in charge] says it all because a coach doesn’t last that long if he doesn’t succeed. As for me, he’s been my only national team coach, which again says it all. His development and mine – I’ve been part of the team for 11 years now – stands for itself. It’s been a successful time together.
To be honest, I wasn’t exactly surprised [about his departure] because I can absolutely understand him. I can understand that after such a long time, there comes a moment when he says "enough" or "I need a break" or "I want to do something else". I think it’s also the right decision. I understand him and his decision very well.
On his role in the squad
In my eyes, this has a lot to do with individual performance. If you don’t perform, you are not in a place to tell other people what to do. It’s also about serving as an example of professionalism, which is important in order to succeed at tournaments and for the team to function in general. Leading by example means giving all the others the feeling that you are always there for them, especially on the pitch, that you are present in every situation. If they are struggling, you give them a hand, you let them know you are there to receive the ball.
These are things that demonstrate a stability and a sense of unity on the pitch. Other players who are not as experienced and who haven’t played as many tournaments see that you are confident, you’re there, and they can easily pass you the ball even in difficult situations. No one has ever played a tournament winning every game brilliantly and convincingly. Problems will come up, there will be difficult matches. In fact, we start straight away with difficult matches and these things play an important role there.Download the EURO app