BVB have won the German U19 Championship eight times, but never the U19 DFB-Pokal. "We want to take this trophy back to Dortmund for the first time and write another piece of club history," said Mike Tullberg before the final against VfB Stuttgart on Friday at the Karl-Liebknecht-Stadion in Potsdam-Babelsberg. Kick-off is at 18:00 CET and the game will be shown live on Sky (Germany).
After his team were drawn against Viktoria Berlin in the first round of the cup, the coach had announced an ambitious target: "We will start the competition in Berlin, and we want to be there to finish it in the capital on 20 May." The team have made that prophecy a reality. However, the young stars' trip will not take them directly to Berlin, but to the capital of the state of Brandenburg, Potsdam. But one day later, they will be heading for the Olympic Stadium when the teams contesting the U19s final will be presented to the public for a deserved round of applause during the DFB-Pokal final between SC Freiburg and RB Leipzig.
In 2009, the Black and Yellows led by their exceptional young talent Mario Götze had reached the final, where they met SC Freiburg, who were coached by Christian Streich at the time. BVB eventually lost 6-5 in a penalty shoot-out. They reached the semi-finals in 2019, but lost out to Leipzig – once again on penalties. This season, they have had to fight much harder in the DFB-Pokal than in any of their other competitions. "We've tested our fans' nerves a little bit," said Tullberg. They comfortably made it through the first rounds against Viktoria Berlin (4-1) and FC Carl Zeiss Jena (3-1), but needed extra time to eventually overcome Hannover 96 (3-1) and SC Freiburg (2-0).
They have drawn a line under the second leg of the German Championship play-off semi-final against Schalke. Now it's about reaping the rewards for an "outstanding season" (Tullberg) in three finals. First against Stuttgart, then in the German Championship play-off final against Hertha Berlin on 29 May and finally they will take on Schalke 04 once more, this time in the Westfalenpokal. The date for that game has not been finalised yet, but is expected to be on June 1. "We are not thinking about the double or the treble – we are focusing solely on VfB Stuttgart," said Mike Tullberg.
Stuttgart's biggest strength lies in their defence
And Stuttgart certainly aren't a team to look past, as although the Swabians finished the regular Bundesliga season two points behind champions FC Augsburg and thus only managed fourth in the league table, they are regarded as the best team in the South/Southwest. They currently have four U19 internationals in their ranks (Mattis Hoppe, Lukas Laupheimer, Davino Knappe and Robin Littig), who have already had a taste of first team action. On top of all that, Tullberg expects them to have at their disposal two U19 stars who have recently been exclusively part of the first team squad. Stuttgart's biggest strength lies in their defence, having conceded by far the fewest goals in the Bundesliga (16).
Stuttgart made it into the final by beating Werder Bremen (2-1), Bayer Leverkusen (3-1), Fortuna Düsseldorf (2-1) and Bayern Munich (3-1 in a penalty shoot-out) on their way to Berlin. Tullberg expects there to be "little between the sides", but he doesn't want to talk much about the opponent's strengths. "We have shown our quality in all competitions throughout the season, so we are going into this game with great confidence," said the coach, for whom the 1-0 defeat in the second leg of the semi-final against Schalke was of little consequence: "We moved past that very quickly – no one got injured."
Mike Tullberg is resisting the temptation to call upon Abdoulaye Kamara, Soumaila Coulibaly or Youssoufa Moukoko, all of whom would be eligible for the U19s game: "I will only take the lads who have been available to us throughout the season. They have all helped us reach three finals at the end of the season. That's why the entire squad will be heading to Berlin for the cup final."
Jamie Bynoe-Gittens has been fully integrated into the U19s squad once again after his foray into the first team last week. One candidate for the starting line-up may be Samuel Bamba, who has completely recovered from his thigh injury and came through the full week of team training unscathed. Captain Dennis Lütke-Frie is also hoping to make his comeback after a groin operation – at the latest in the play-off final.
5-3 victory in the last final against Stuttgart
The young team have great memories of games against VfB Stuttgart. At the first major tournament after the prolonged break due to the coronavirus, the Black and Yellows celebrated a 3-1 victory against the Swabians in the Bundesliga Cup final in Schwäbisch Hall in July 2021. On the way back, the bus was booming with celebrations. "After ten months of lockdown, the lads had to learn how to celebrate again," said Mike Tullberg, looking back fondly on the days that they also used as a team-building exercise.
That was the start of an extraordinary season – and should be a good omen. On top of that, we have the memory of the last big game between the two most successful youth teams in German history. In the German Championship play-off final in Grossaspach in 2019, BVB turned around a 3-1 deficit at half-time to eventually run out 5-3 winners at the final whistle.
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