Stefan Kuntz has twice guided Germany’s U21 squad to European Championship glory. - © Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Sven Simon
Stefan Kuntz has twice guided Germany’s U21 squad to European Championship glory. - © Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Sven Simon
bundesliga

Stefan Kuntz: 5 things on Germany's U21 and Olympic coach and UEFA Euro 1996 hero

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A regular goalscorer with several Bundesliga clubs, Stefan Kuntz is better known nowadays as the man who twice guided Germany to UEFA European U21 Championship glory.

bundesliga.com presents five things you need to know about the former Germany striker who will lead the Olympic team to Tokyo 2020.

1) He used to be a police officer

Hailing from the southwest of the country, Kuntz first caught the eye with home town club Borussia Neunkirchen. When he was not scoring goals in the German lower leagues, however, he was busy stamping his authority on things in other ways. He worked as a police officer at that time, a career he eventually put behind him once he established himself in the Bundesliga.

"I often had luck on my side at the right time," Kuntz told German TV show Sportschau in May 2021 when discussing his playing career.

One such stroke of fortune came when a scout was sent to watch a defender Kuntz was up against with Neunkirchen. The observer ended up being a lot more interested in the striker who scored three goals that day, and Kuntz soon had proposals from both Kaiserslautern and Bochum.

Officer Kuntz went from stopping rulebreakers to breaking records on the pitch. - IMAGO / Horstmüller

"The offer from Bochum came in and I said to myself 'I don’t know if I can manage it, but I'd like to continue as a police officer,'" he recalled. “Bochum guaranteed that I could make the switch and remain a police officer. So I went to Bochum, and I don't know if I could have had the career I did without them."

Almost 21 when he made the move in 1983, Kuntz scored in each of his first four Bundesliga games. Rather than catching lawbreakers, then, he soon began to focus on becoming a record breaker.

2) He's one of leading Bundesliga goalscorers of all time

Kuntz's father Günter was no doubt an inspiration, having scored 21 goals in 80 Bundesliga matches for Borussia Neunkirchen in the 1960s. But Kuntz Jnr wrote himself into the record books as one of the best goalscorers ever to play in the German top flight. He finished with 179 goals in 449 Bundesliga games for four different clubs, having also been a regular on the scoresheet with Bayer Uerdingen, Kaiserslautern and Arminia Bielefeld before his professional career ended back at Bochum in 1999.

Kuntz has gone down as one of the most prolific goalscorers in Bundesliga history. - imago sportfotodienst/imago sportfotodienst

He twice ended top of the scoring charts in the Bundesliga, striking 22 times for Bochum in the 1985/86 season and 18 times for Kaiserslautern in 1993/94. He played 15 seasons in the top flight, and hit double figures in all but four of them. That track record means he is still eighth in the all-time ranking for Bundesliga goalscorers.

3) He's a German champion

Kuntz's most successful period at club level was his time with Kaiserslautern between 1989 and 1995. He moved there after scoring 32 league goals in 94 matches for Uerdingen, and his first season with his new club was a memorable one. He registered 15 Bundesliga goals as captain and got to lead the team out when they reached the DFB Cup final against Werder Bremen in May 1990. His fifth goal in that year's competition proved the winner as Kaiserslautern held on for a 3-2 victory. The Red Devils had finally won the cup after being beaten finalists on four previous occasions, and Kuntz had captured his first piece of silverware as a player.

Kuntz captained Kaiserslautern to a shock Bundesliga title win in 1990/91. - imago sportfotodienst via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Sven Simon

Things would get even better for both parties. Playing for a club representing his parents' home city and only 40 minutes from Kuntz's home town seemed to suit the 5'11" frontman.

In the 1990/91 season he got 11 goals in 27 appearances, forming a dangerous strike partnership with Bruno Labbadia but sometimes playing in deeper attacking positions or even at the other end of the field as a libero. His efforts helped Kaiserslautern cause a surprise by finishing three points ahead of defending champions Bayern Munich for their maiden Bundesliga title. The rewards kept coming too, with Kuntz being named Germany's Footballer of the Year for 1991.

4) Germany never lost a game he played in

Despite his prolific goalscoring record at club level, Kuntz played just 25 times for his country. He was overlooked for the 1990 FIFA World Cup squad despite an excellent season, and had to wait until December 1993 to make his debut. He marked it by netting in a 3-0 victory over the USA, and was later used once as a substitute in the 1994 World Cup in America. By the time UEFA Euro 1996 came around, Kuntz had moved to Turkish side Besiktas but he was featuring more regularly by Germany.

He would become even more important as the tournament wore on, with injuries meaning two of his five appearances were starts in the semi-final and final. By far his most memorable contribution came in an epic victory over England in the last four. Kuntz slid home an equaliser during 90 minutes, had another goal harshly disallowed in extra-time, and held his nerve to stroke home his team's fifth of six successful penalties in a dramatic shootout. Germany then became European champions for a third time when they beat the Czech Republic in the final thanks to Oliver Bierhoff's golden goal.

“Kuntz!” England fans will never forget the man who equalised for eventual champions Germany in the Euro 1996 semi-final at Wembley. - imago/Camera 4

"Of course I remember it well - it was the biggest success of my career after all," he told German sports magazine kicker in 2017. "At 33 years of age I was able to enjoy it all the more because I had to wait a long time for it."

Kuntz found the net six times for his country and played his last match at international level in 1997. His unblemished collection of 21 wins, one famous victory after extra-time, one famous success on penalties, and four draws was a Germany record.

5) He's won European Championships as a player and a coach

Kuntz's post-playing career has been as varied as his time on the pitch. He started it as a coach with local club Neunkirchen and also had a spell in charge of Karlsruhe as well as lesser names like Waldhof Mannheim and LR Ahlen. Germany's coach for the 2020 Olympics also had two long stints at board level, first as sporting director of Bochum (2006-08), then as chairman of Kaiserslautern (2008-16).

Kuntz is the most successful coach ever with Germany’s U21s, winning the European Championship in 2017 and 2021, as well as reaching the final in 2019. - Pressefoto ULMER/Alberto Lingria/imago/Ulmer

In September 2016 he succeeded Horst Hrubesch as head coach of the Germany U21 team, a role in which he has enjoyed unprecedented success.

At the 2017 European Championship in Poland, Kuntz guided a squad that included the likes of Nadiem Amiri, Serge Gnabry, Mahmoud Dahoud and Maximilian Arnold to glory, with Mitchell Weiser the matchwinner in a 1-0 victory over Spain. They again reached the decider two years later in Italy, but this time a goal from future RB Leipzig star Dani Olmo helped Spain to a 2-1 triumph.

Lukas Nmecha came off the bench in that game, and he would deliver yet more silverware for Kuntz in June 2021. The 58-year-old coach once more steered Germany to the finals, and a quickfire double from Bayer Leverkusen wonderkid Florian Wirtz accounted for the Netherlands in the last four. Germany later met Portugal in the decider in Ljubljana, where Ridle Baku set up Nmecha for a 1-0 win. 

At this stage, then, Kuntz likely has no regrets about leaving the police.