Speaking exclusively to bundesliga.com, the Germany U-21 captain outlines his thoughts on representing his country, how he aims to get better and Hoffenheim's season so far...
bundesliga.com: Kevin Volland, after winning three caps for the full Germany team, is being called up for the U-21 side not a step back?
Kevin Volland: Not at all. Obviously, the senior team is always an objective of mine and it’s always special to be involved, but before the start of the season I was made captain of the U-21s for the European Championship qualifying campaign. We qualified, and now I’m about to participate in my final U-21 EURO. Therefore it’s important that all the players come together again ahead of the tournament.
bundesliga.com: Compared to the first half of the season, your performances have improved since the winter break with Hoffenheim. Why is that?
Volland: I’ve been injury-free for a long time now and haven’t been carrying any niggles, like the back complaint I had last summer. That’s the most important thing as you can then give 100 per cent. We’re heading into the business end of the season and I’m expected to perform out on the pitch - and I'm keen to do so.
'The Bundesliga's very even'bundesliga.com: You have repeatedly said publicly that Hoffenheim need to go on a run in order to nick a Europa League place at the end of the season. Did you deliberately want to give the team a wake-up call?
Volland: Yes, we’re all ambitious and want to do as well as we can. It would be a massive achievement for the club and us players if we could finish in sixth. That’s our collective aim.
bundesliga.com: Hoffenheim have had a patchy Rückrunde so far. Would it be unfair to say that you're are only still in with a chance of European qualification because the teams higher in the table haven’t pulled away?
Volland: I don’t think that’s the case because every game is unbelievably tight. You can see every weekend just how strong the Bundesliga is. Apart from Bayern and maybe Wolfsburg, anyone can beat anyone this season. The Bundesliga’s very even and if you don’t give 100 per cent in every game then you lose. The other teams haven’t approached playing us any differently. We know we have to improve and the good thing is that we have the potential to do so.
'Goal droughts are normal'bundesliga.com: You only scored two goals before the winter break but you have four in 2015 already. What was it like for you to experience a goal drought like that?
Volland: Obviously it would have been great to have scored a couple more, but for me the team comes first. My view is that we want to win so it doesn’t matter who scores. That’s why I didn’t make a big deal about it before the winter break. Strikers always go through periods when they don’t find the net, it’s normal. I just I continued to work extremely hard.
bundesliga.com: What specifically did you work on?
Volland: I did less physical work and focused more on shooting practice in order to feel more secure in that. I've also decided to be greedier. Basically that means not immediately looking to pass after going past my marker, but to shoot or go on a run myself.
bundesliga.com: How would you evaluate Hoffenheim’s season so far?
Volland: At the start of the campaign we defended really well but unfortunately lost one or two games that we could have won. In the second half of the season we lost our first three games, but we've now won four of the last seven [competitive] matches and only lost away to Schalke. That’s not too bad, is it? It would obviously have been good to have won a few points in the first three games at the start of the year, but we’re still in a good position and we can build from there.
Kevin Volland was speaking to Tobias Schächter