Cologne - VfL Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse has plenty to be happy about after scoring the goal that clinched Germany's place at UEFA EURO 2016 during the international break.
Now back home in Lower Saxony, the 27-year-old is hoping his good fortune rubs off on the Wolves in the busy weeks ahead.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 14-time Germany international recounts his memorable strike against Georgia, assesses Wolfsburg's season so far, discusses the form of team-mate Andre Schürrle and shares his thoughts on the performances of former club Borussia Mönchengladbach...
bundesliga.com: Max Kruse, not every player has returned to their club high on confidence after the international break, but you have reason to be cheerful…
Max Kruse: Sure, it went really well for me. It was a nice experience, and I’ve brought the good vibes with me back to Wolfsburg. In the end, though, I think we can all be pleased to have finally qualified [for UEFA EURO 2016].
bundesliga.com: You showed that not all dream goals have to fly into the corner. You didn’t control the ball first, you just stroked it first-time into the net.
Kruse: That’s intuition. In that moment you barely have a second to decide what you’re going to do for the best. Mesut [Özil] played a fantastic pass towards the penalty spot and I wasn’t sure whether or not the defender to my right had time to get a block in if I took a touch. That’s why I decided to shoot first-time. It worked out, and it was against the direction of the goalkeeper.
bundesliga.com: Missed chances prior to your introduction reignited the debate on whether Germany are missing a top-class striker…
Kruse: I think we have enough players in the squad that can do a good job in the striker role. It went well at the World Cup with Miroslav Klose, but it’s not like we haven’t scored goals in games without him. We have the right players for the system the coach favours, and I don’t think anything needs changing. It’s much more important that we all play better in the future.
bundesliga.com: It’s a piece of advice that could also be applied to VfL Wolfsburg. Are you disappointed to only have 12 points on the board after eight games?
Kruse: As far as points go, I’m not going to disagree, but we have to keep things in perspective. True, we weren’t able to win any of our last four games, but we played some good football at times. That’s why I think it’s far too premature to be talking about a crisis. Obviously, it’s not how we envisaged the last few weeks, but in reality we’re still only five points behind second place. All is certainly not lost!
bundesliga.com: Are the critics perhaps not taking into account that the team needs time after Ivan Perisic and Kevin De Bruyne left and you and Julian Draxler came in?
Kruse: Speaking for myself, I can say that I settled in right away. But you can’t expect everything to click immediately, and you have to accept that some things need time when it involves a new set of players. I’m confident, though, that we’ll close the gap in the coming weeks. Like I said, there are times when we’ve played some really good football.
bundesliga.com: Nothing appears to be going right for Andre Schürrle. As a team-mate do you feel for him or are professional footballers not that close?
Kruse: It’s not unusual to be close to each other in football. It’s a job where you have to deal with things like that. Andre isn’t playing how he’d like - that can happen. Andre is an international and a world champion, that doesn’t come easily. He’s got enough confidence to know what he’s capable of, and he knows that he’ll return to that level if he keeps fighting. And if he needs support along the way, obviously we’re all there to give it to him.
bundesliga.com: Your former club Borussia Mönchengladbach also had their own crisis to deal with. Are you surprised how badly they started the season?
Kruse: On the one hand, I was surprised that they had so many problems to start with. On the other hand, all the experts will tell you that teams can’t always play to such a high level, as was the case during the second half of last season. Every now and again there’s going to be a rough patch - that’s normal. Now, after winning three in a row and putting in a really good performance against Manchester City in the Champions League, they’ve shown that they haven’t lost any of their quality like some critics were saying. I never doubted that Borussia would come good again.
bundesliga.com: Are you still in contact with some of the players?
Interview by Andreas Kötter