"There have been worse years for me," Kevin Volland told UEFA.com after leading Germany to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals and making his senior debut.
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Kevin Volland will head into Germany's winter break able to reflect on a superb year. The TSG 1899 Hoffenheim forward ended 2013/14 with 11 Bundesliga goals to his name and a first ever call-up to Germany's senior team, making his debut against Poland in May and winning a spot in Joachim Löw's provisional squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The 22-year-old ultimately missed out on a trip to Brazil, but he has another big tournament to look forward to in 2015 – the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals in the Czech Republic. Volland was a key figure for Germany during qualifying, hitting six goals in six outings, and, speaking to UEFA.com, he looks forward to the finals, while savouring his breakthrough year.
UEFA.com: Having made your senior debut for Germany, become a key player for Hoffenheim and scored plenty of goals, what is your verdict on 2014?
Kevin Volland: Indeed, there have been worse years for me (laughs). I think I have developed well through constant hard work. The fact that I have been able to help Hoffenheim on the pitch, as well as being given the chance to play for Germany, has been wonderful. The experiences I had in the Germany training camp just ahead of the World Cup were very important for me.
UEFA.com: Does it still hurt to have been cut from the squad just before the World Cup?
Volland: Of course, it's a shame it didn't work out. I just failed to make that final step. But I managed to get that out of my head fairly quickly and used it as a motivation. At one point, I want to play a major tournament, and I am laying the groundwork for that in training. I would never accept less than full throttle from myself.
UEFA.com: Germany's U21s will be going for the title in the final tournament in the Czech Republic. How much of an incentive is that for you, or are you already thinking about UEFA EURO 2016 in France?
Volland: It's a real honour to lead Germany's U21s out as captain. The qualification process for the final tournament was not a walk in the park – it was really hard work. If I get to play, I will give it my all on the pitch. And when Joachim Löw calls, I will give it my all for the senior squad. Both teams play a role in my head.
UEFA.com: You have gained a reputation for being industrious and showing lots of fighting spirit. Does this spirit come from your dad, who was an ice-hockey international?
Volland: My father certainly set that example – as an ice-hockey player, but also in his private life. He was and is a very important focal point for me, and I have definitely inherited this from him.
UEFA.com: Looking back at 2014, what was the highlight for you?
Volland: Probably my debut for Germany's senior team. I'd listened to the national anthem a few times playing for the youth teams, but that was exceptional. I will never forget it.
UEFA.com: What goals and wishes do you have for 2015, both on the pitch and outside of football?
Volland: I want to continue on my path. I don't have any major targets like a specific position in the table or a certain number of goals. I go into every match with the same attitude. I'll give 100% for the team and surely reap the rewards for it at the end. If I know I have given my all, then I'm satisfied with that. Away from the pitch? If it were up to me, everything would stay the way it is now.
UEFA.com: How, where and with whom will you spend Christmas?
Volland: With my family. There is a lot of delicious food and we will spend a calm Christmas time together. Home is the best place to refuel the batteries.