Gonzalo Castro admits it will be "emotional" when Germany take on the land of his parents' birth, Spain, in their Group B opener, but says there will be no divided loyalties once the referee's whistle blows in Gothenburg.
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Gonzalo Castro admits it will be "emotional" when Germany take on the land of his parents' birth, Spain, in the opening round of matches at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship but both he and his captain are confident Horst Hrubesch's side can rise to the occasion.
'Send a signal'
Castro was born in Wuppertal in western Germany to a Spanish couple and admits to mixed feelings ahead of the Group B game – although he is confident that there will no question of divided loyalties once the referee's whistle sounds in Gothenburg. "It's a very emotional situation for me," the versatile midfielder, often deployed at right-back by Bayer 04 Leverkusen, told the pre-match press conference. "My father comes from Malaga and my mother from Girona in Catalonia. But this is an important match for us because we can send a signal to the other teams. We're very well prepared for the tournament."
That last point was echoed by skipper Sami Khedira, who emphasised the importance of beginning the finals in positive fashion. "We want to get off to a good start against Spain to generate a good feeling in and around the squad for the forthcoming matches," said the VfB Stuttgart midfielder, who is confident his side will do themselves justice in Sweden over the next fortnight. "We can handle this situation. The whole team are very experienced; we're used to playing in the Champions League and the Bundesliga. Sometimes we're playing for the league title, sometimes against relegation. We're used to playing in front of sold-out stadiums so that's why we're looking forward to this. There's no pressure – it's a nice challenge."
Team of leaders
Khedira and Castro are both likely to shoulder additional responsibility, with the former wearing the captain's armband and Castro one of only two squad members to have previously appeared in a U21 finals, in Portugal in 2006. Both, however, are advocates of the notion of collective responsibility, the former explaining: "It's not a new situation for me – I've always thought of myself as one of the leaders in the team. Now I get the chance to discuss with the coach and share my opinions, but lots of the squad are leaders so it's not difficult."
In the unlikely event of any members of Hrubesch's squad needing additional motivation, senior coach Joachim Löw will attend the first two matches in Sweden and Castro, with five full caps to his name already – although none since November 2007 - has particular reason to shine. "I'm very proud to have played for the senior team but I haven't played too well for a while so I'm looking to do that at this tournament and next season," he said. "I'm a young player, I have to learn a lot and develop and I'm very optimistic for these finals."