Sandro Wagner has plenty of reasons for cheer: the Hoffenheim striker ended a five-game Bundesliga goalscoring drought with a brace against Cologne on Matchday 11, perfectly timed before heading to meet up with the German national team in Berlin to prepare for high-profile friendlies against England and France.
In an interview after the victory in Cologne, the 29-year-old discussed why he still does not feel like an "established international", revealed his penalty bargain with teammate Kerem Demirbay, before pointing out that, despite Hoffenheim regularly blooding youngsters, "there are a fair few Bundesliga teams who'd like to be where we are in the table".
Question: Sandro Wagner, you've got two internationals coming up against England and France. What ambitions are you taking to the national team meet-up this time around?
Sandro Wagner: As usual, I'll be taking very few ambitions. I'm just pleased to be involved. I'm pleased with any international cap I gain and so we'll see what playing time I get. I don't mind at all how much or how little it is – I'll give it my all to produce my best.
Question: So do you think you're an established international player?
Wagner: I don't think you're an established international with only five caps.
Watch: Wagner was at the double in Hoffenheim's MD11 win in Cologne!
Question: But you've been involved in the last few games...
Wagner: Being an established international is quite different, though.
Question: Do you think you're on the way to being an established international, then?
Wagner: I don't really know. I'm 30 soon so we'll have to see.
Question: Was the 3-0 win in Cologne a good way to get the last-minute equaliser you conceded in Istanbul out of your minds?
Wagner: I said straight after the game on Thursday that there’s no shame in drawing 1-1 against Basaksehir. We had players on the pitch who'd never played in Europe before. You shouldn’t expect too much, too soon. We’ve got a lot of players in the team who have also just started playing in the Bundesliga - I’m thinking about Dennis Geiger, Stefan Posch or Kevin Akpoguma. You have to give them the chance to develop. It’s going well - we’re fifth in the table and we can go into the international break feeling relaxed. Then we’ll see what happens in the run-up to Christmas. We’re in a good position now, though.
Question: How difficult was it going into the game against Cologne? Hoffenheim hadn’t won in four Bundesliga matches and could have slipped to 11th in the standings…
Wagner: It wasn’t difficult at all. We’re Hoffenheim. We’ve got a lot of intelligent people at the club - they’re all pragmatic. The bar shouldn’t be set too high. We said as much at the start of the season. We lost some key players. We’ve also lost a lot of important defensive players such as Ermin Bicakcic and Benjamin Hübner to injury in recent weeks. You can’t expect us to match last season’s efforts. For me, finishing between fifth and 10th is good for us. The Hoffenheim way is to integrate young players. That has its downsides - you have to accept that, but there are still a fair few Bundesliga teams who'd like to be where we are in the table.
Question: You slotted the penalty to make it 2-0. Were you always down to take it after Andrej Kramaric missed the last one?
Wagner: He's only missed one, but I made a deal with Kerem Demirbay in Wolfsburg that we'd share penalty duties. I've always taken them in the past, and all of the other strikers in the Bundesliga take them, so I said to Kerem that I'd be taking a few from now on. It's an easy way of scoring goals and since journalists are so obsessed with goalscoring records, I thought to myself that I'd better start scoring the easy ones.
Watch: check out Wagner's top three Bundesliga goals!
Question: Was your second goal [a first-time volley] against Cologne deliberate?
Wagner: Do you not think I'm capable of that sort of goal?
Question: On the contrary!
Wagner: Then you don't need to ask! (laughs) Yes, of course I meant to do it. It was a fantastic cross from Andrej Kramaric. He picked me out well. That’s not always been the case (laughs). Good cross, good finish - that’s how it should be.
Question: Do you agree that Hoffenheim were fresher against Cologne compared to previous weeks?
Wagner: No, we were fresh in recent weeks, too, but when you keep conceding last-minute goals it reflects badly on you. It’s demoralising. We weren’t any fresher against Cologne. This time, though, we were able to wrap up the game early and keep a clean sheet. That was very, very important. It makes it a lot easier for the forwards if you don’t have the added pressure of needing to score. For the young lads at the back, it was important to keep a clean sheet. Hats off to the youngsters. It was a good Matchday for us. We’re fifth and have averted the so-called “crisis”.
Tobias Gonscherowski reporting from Cologne/dfb.de