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U21 Championship Qualification
4 - 0
(3 - 0)
Germany U21
Latvia U21
J. Burkardt (25), A. Knauff (26), J. Burkardt (43), M. Tillman (75)
X L. Vapne (66)

Di Salvo lauds Burkardt, Krauß, and Atubolu after win

By Peter Vice   @ViceytheSS

Germany U21 head-coach Antonio di Salvo had great praise for squad captain Jonathan Burkardt, midfielder Tom Krauß, and keeper Noah Atubolu after his team got 2022 off to a winning start on Friday night. 

The trainer of Germany's highest youth level also spoke on the World Cup playoffs, answering questions about the elimination of Stefan Kuntz's Turkey and his native country of Italy. 
Antonio Di Salvo.
Antonio Di Salvo.Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0
DFB Junior head-coach Antonio di Salvo made clear that he was "very proud" of his team after their 4-0 victory over Latvia at the Tivoli Stadium in Aachen on Friday night. For di Salvo, the critical moment during which his "newly assembled team" overcame "a bumpy start" came when Nürnberg's Tom Krauß won a midfield ball in the lead up to Jonathan Burkardt's opening 25th minute goal.

"That was a super ball win from a chest-thumping [confident player]," di Salvo noted.

Burkardt himself was undeniably the star of the show, scoring twice and setting up another goal for Ansgar Knuaff. The squad captain impressed throughout his 62-minute shift. Di Salvo naturally made clear that the result could not have been achieved without the Mainz attacker.

"We made the best of the tight personnel situation," Burkardt noted in his own post-match interview with German broadcaster ProSieben Maxx, "If you measure the development against the first Latvia game [the first leg back in September], today was significantly better. All the lads performed today."

The 21-year-old remained modest about his own brace and didn't have much to say about his eye-catching flick to set-up Knauff's goal. For the skipper, the most important matter was focusing on the team's next game against Israel on Tuesday.

While the final scoreline made it look as if the Latvian guests never troubled his team much, di Salvo wished to highlight that there would have certainly not been a clean sheet had it not been for his selected keeper Noah Atubolu. The SC Freiburg net-minder made several memorable saves.

The 19-year-old made two top-notch saves just before halftime and immediately after the restart. He also held a Latvian penalty in the 66th.

"He gave the team stability and presence," di Salvo noted when discussing his choice between the sticks, "Even if you think, at 3-0, nothing more can happen, games can always turn. Noah reacted super twice to keep us where we were. I'm very pleased with him."

Di Salvo warned against taking the form of the team for granted. After all, a 0-4 loss to Poland in November taught coach and crew a very important lesson in humility. Only in the job since Stefan Kuntz left to coach the Turkish national team in September, di Salvo emphasized the need to remain "highly focused".

The relative new Germany U21 trainer answered questions about his predecessor. Kuntz's Turkey failed to qualify for the World Cup after falling 1-3 to Portugal in the single-legged semi-final playoff round on Thursday night.

"We were all rooting for Stefan," di Salvo said, "One could already tell that Stefan had given the team and the country an identity again. They played with heart. Stefan can be proud of what's he's accomplished with the team thus far."

When it came to answer questions about his native land of Italy, shockingly out of the World Cup for the second consecutive cycle after falling to North Macedonia on Thursday, di Salvo kept it brief.

"Of course, I had other hopes," he acknowledged.

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