An exciting journey through Europe is over, the focus is on the future. The pain at missing out on the opportunity to beat Hajduk Split and qualify for the Final Four of the UEFA Youth League has been replaced by a sense of accomplishment. Borussia’s U19s are already targeting the next big challenge: the Final Round of the German Championship.
“I’ve congratulated the lads. You have to take your hat off to them. We’ve managed to reach the last eight for the second time in a row. The club has never managed that, and that makes us proud,” said coach Mike Tullberg, reflecting positively on the Youth League campaign. You simply cannot always win a penalty thriller – as was the case away to Manchester United last year or recently in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain.
It was not to be against Hajduk, “in part because we didn’t manage to produce the kind of performance we’re capable of,” said Lars Ricken, the Director of the Youth Performance Centre, in summary of normal time. Tullberg felt “we generally played too slowly, had problems in possession and were not lively enough”. Hajduk Split made use of their physical advantages, created superiority in numbers off the ball, were perfectly set up to face Borussia and were not undeserved winners in the end.
For Mike Tullberg and his lads, it is now a case of dusting themselves down and taking the positives from the season to date. “We’ve played 19 top-level games in the UEFA Youth League in the last two years. That’s been very important for the further development of our young talents because they’ve only been able to play a single round-robin format with just 15 games in the Bundesliga,” noted Lars Ricken.
First leg of semi-final on Easter Monday
The experiences they have amassed on the international stage and the competitiveness toughness they have acquired in these clashes should stand them in good stead for the big challenges ahead. The U19s will play the first leg of their semi-final in the Final Round of the German Championship away to Hertha BSC Berlin on Easter Monday (10 April), with the return leg taking place in Dortmund. It is a big chance for BVB to complete their hat-trick and win the title for the third time in arow after 2019 and 2022 (the Championship was annulled in 2020 and 2021 due to the corona pandemic).
“We’ll prepare as best we can for the final round games against Hertha BSC,” Lars Ricken assured. The Berlin outfit finished the Bundesliga Nord/Nordost season as champions with a three-point lead over Dynamo Dresden. Last year, Borussia won the championship final in Berlin by a 2-1 scoreline.
“We will fully embrace these games and try to get to the final again,” said Tullberg. That would take place away from home once again, with the winner of the second semi-final, which pits FSV Mainz 05 (with former BVB coach Benjamin Hoffmann) against 1. FC Cologne, enjoying home advantage.
Mike Tullberg will have to wait until the beginning of April to get his squad back together and prepare for the final highlight of the season. The majority of the players will now link up with their junior international teams to play qualification tournaments for the European Championship finals. The remaining players in the squad will focus on the Westfalenpokal on Wednesday, with TSG Sprockhövel the first opponents (19:00 CET). (wiwi)