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Lahm's lessons for Under-19 starlets

Having retired as a FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League and serial Bundesliga winner, former Bayern and Germany captain Philipp Lahm looks back on the 2002 Under-19s.

Philipp Lahm ended his Bayern career with another Bundesliga title in May
Philipp Lahm ended his Bayern career with another Bundesliga title in May ©Getty Images

A FIFA World Cup winner, a UEFA Champions League winner and a serial Bundesliga champion, former Bayern München and Germany captain Philipp Lahm has much to be proud of after retiring on a high this season.

With such a glittering career behind him, he would be forgiven for revelling in the triumphs of more than a decade at the top. But as he points out, it is often those times when things don't quite go your way that you learn most. For Lahm, the 2002 UEFA European Under-19 Championship final is a case in point.

Lahm had made his mark on the tournament as early as the first match, his 90th-minute goal helping Germany earn a crucial point in a 3-3 draw with England. The full-back featured in all three group games, but that was not enough for him to start the Oslo final against Spain.

"I was initially on the bench for the first game and then played the rest of the tournament until the final," he says. "I came on as a sub in the final, that's why I've got mixed feelings about it. But that's something you need to learn from. Not starting the crucial game – the final you've worked so hard for – you have to learn from that. It definitely helped me develop."

Germany's Philipp Lahm at the 2002 finals
Germany's Philipp Lahm at the 2002 finals©Getty Images

This is precisely what the U19 final tournament is all about: furthering your footballing education and hopefully making it count with the seniors one day. It is a philosophy Lahm, now 33, embraced wholeheartedly.

"Those tournaments were the only way of competing against other nations," he adds. "It was always good, because you learned to live together as a group – that wasn't something you were used to.

"Before that you might have had a few days' training camp, maybe a week maximum, but never longer. But in tournaments you spend more time together, you train and play more with each other. For me, it was always special to travel with the junior national teams and play in tournaments.

"Unfortunately we didn't win that title – we lost the final to Spain, who had players like Fernando Torres and Andrés Iniesta. It's also interesting to see who made it in the future. But I always thought those tournaments were great."

As an indicator of the dedication and professionalism that would underpin his future success, Lahm began those Norwegian finals determined to take everything he possibly could from the experience.

"Back then I very much thought through everything I was doing, especially in an international tournament," he recalls. "And that was my first major tournament. They were all new things I'd never experienced before. I enjoyed it at the time. It wasn't that everything was easy for me – there were also some very difficult moments – but that's all part of it and you learn.

"You have to take it as it comes," continues Lahm. "That's the way that tournament went, and it was a successful one as we reached the final. As for advice for young players: enjoy yourself, have fun and try to improve every day. And apply the things that you're taught as well as possible. That's the most important thing."

This interview appears in the Under-19 programme; download your copy here