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Germany wins the U20 World Cup XXXI: Interview with Hardy_HH and Gave_ (1)

Germany did it again: they won the U20 World Cup edition XXXI. Who was leading Germany to win the gold medal? It would not be fair to just mention one name, as in fact it was a duo job lead by two online friends who know each other for many years: German manager Hardy_HH (5482723) and Italian manager Gave_ (9718120)

Below you can read an interview introducing us to the managers and their road to the World Cup gold medal.

Hi Hardy_HH and Gave_! You were asked for this interview because you together won the U20 World Cup (WC) with Germany. Can you please introduce yourselves?

[Gave_] Hi Zlatan! I'm Davide, 25 years old, and I’ve been playing HT for 10 years. I live near Como (Northern Italy, not far from Milan) and I would have never expected to do an interview as World Champion!
I believe the whole thing is a very nice story, as it came up almost as a joke at first. I was looking for a place where I could run in the U20 elections, a place with an already organized scouting network as I was kinda tired of it after handling it for many seasons in Ireland. Hardy suggested Germany, as he could have been the assistant coach and translator. We didn’t believe we had a chance of being elected, but after talking to McVotava (13121621) (German head scout), it turned out we could actually win the elections if we switched roles (thanks to the German flag) so that’s what we did.
Apart from this, Hardy and I know each other since 2017 when I joined the Irish staff and he was already there, so we worked together a lot over the years. We never met in person, but we made a deal at the beginning of the term: in case we won a silver medal we would have met in Como, while in case we won the gold medal we would have met in Hamburg... It’s crazy but now that we won a gold medal, we’ll be meeting each other when the Covid restrictions are lifted.

[Hardy_HH] Thank you Zlatan for the interview-request :) It´s a honour for me to answer your questions! I am Jonas, 35 years old, and I am living in Hamburg, while my origin is in Dortmund (I like to say that :-D). Since Gave and I worked together for the first time, I am very happy and enthusiastic about him. We both share the dedication about this game, even if our approach is sometimes different. I can´t wait to meet him in real life!

Thanks guy, but let’s skip the chit chat for now, tell us about the U20 WC win! Leading one of the bigger HT countries, there is always a lot of pressure to win a medal, but it’s very hard to accomplish. How big was the pressure, and how big was the relief after winning the gold medal?

[Hardy_HH] As I never expected to win a medal, I didn’t feel a lot of pressure. The pressure, if you want to call it like that, was bigger in the last game of the qualification round. It was a special group and also a special situation as we faced an experienced German manager (Jabba (1761372)), and especially as everybody knew we wanted to play our own style, which was a bit different as the team who won the gold medal before.
[Gave_] I agree with Hardy that there was no real pressure. Sometimes we were criticized in the forum, but that's what happens in each country. All in all we felt more support than criticism.
Winning the gold medal surely was a big relief and made me also realize that we did something huge HT-wise... Sometimes I still don't believe we actually did it.

Okay, let’s go through the tournament and start at the beginning. You won the elections with only two votes against Bokko_ (8554797), how were you able to convince the community for this very close win?

[Gave_]: I frankly don’t remember much the elections, they were pretty quiet compared to the Italian elections I’m used to follow.

[Hardy_HH]: German elections are crazy. I don´t really understand why, but there are often not so many well known and famous competitors (at the same time) compared to other big HT countries. So it was foreseeable, that Bokko and we would have a tough race until the end. I guess our experience gave the final push for the win.

After you won the elections, there are plenty of tasks to do for national coaches. What were your first responsibilities and how did you divide the tasks?

[Gave_]: Hardy handled most of the communication part, while I studied the prospects and started to share thoughts about them.
Hardy also created a federation where he openly invited several German users to discuss what players to select and what tactic we would play.
Over the whole term we received a lot of help from these users, in particular from Micha (12966712), who posted detailed reviews of the opponents' players and style of play, and from Cocky (976267), who provided tables with opponents' ratings and estimations of their midfield together with info about their team spirit (TS).

[Hardy_HH] Puh, it´s been a long time! After reacting to so many congratulations, it´s like Gave explained. I have to admit that the community-thing was a challenge and not always what everyone expected and wished, but I learned a lot. Sometimes we both had a day with time issues, but in the end it worked out.

Can you tell us a bit about your qualification round? You needed to fight until the last qualification round in order to win your spot for the next round, playing against the (slightly surprising) group leader Angola, and knowing that Switzerland had a relatively easy game against Saudi-Arabia. Were there any mistakes made, and what was the final push to secure the second place of your group?

[Gave_] I honestly think we played very well during the qualification round, but we were quite unlucky. According to the ‘luck tables’, we were even among the top 10 unluckiest teams (17340840.802), so still managing to qualify was kind of an achievement.
In fact I remember that the whole round was full of frustration because we always played well and we had these amazing odds according to the 100 replays, but we could hardly grab any wins... We got countless draws against counter attacks and when we tried to play counter attack ourselves we got terrible defeats (vs Norway and vs Paraguay). Anyway, in the last crucial game we had less TS than Angola but we knew that some of their players had aged (mainly forwards if I remember correctly) so we expected a high midfield from them with low offensive ratings, which led us to a breathtaking counter attack. I was super nervous during that game, but we managed to win 3-2.

[Hardy_HH]: I agree. After the first game against Norge and our boost for TS and Team Confidence (TC) we played with a lot of self-confidence but the results weren’t always on our side. The last game against Angola was thrilling. The preparation was exciting, and I can´t deny that I was a bit relieved to see that we made the correct choices for that game.

The second round and the third round you each time won the group with the maximum of the point. How were you able to accomplish this? What was your PIC/PIN/MOTS strategy at this stage of the tournament?

[Hardy_HH] We always worked from game to game, as round 2 and round 3 are an achievement for every country. I have to admit that during these rounds the luck was on our side and only stopped at the first game of round 4 against Iran.

[Gave_] Yeah, we kept it very simple: we always started with a PIC and we kept playing PIC as long as we kept winning. For sure it's the most effective strategy to maximize your chances to win gold, but you clearly need luck on your side. Like when we won a perfect coin-flip game in the second game of round 2 against Denmark. Losing it would have given us some troubles, but we were lucky and we managed to play PIC 6 times in a row.
In the fourth round, you were grouped again with Iran, which was already your toughest opponent in round 3. You immediately lost your first game against Iran, so you could not afford to lose any more points. In the end you ‘easily’ won the last two games and survived another round. At this stage both you as your opponents probably knew your team very well. What were the strengths and weaknesses of your team?

[Gave_] I think Germany had no real weaknesses. We probably didn't have perfect specialties on all players and we were a bit short on some positions, but overall we really had a top class team.
Our main strengths at the beginning of R4 were certainly our TS and TC, which were super high. Having big TS advantage is super important at this stage. Talking about the team, our main strength in my opinion was the very high playmaking across all the positions (wingers, central defenders and forwards).

[Hardy_HH] Our central defense was open quite sometimes, as we often played a 253 with 2 wing backs. Angola played brilliant winning the midfield all focusing on the center attack ratings during the world cup qualifier. But our 253 line-up was probably still our strength.
In the semi-finals you faced another top team, U20 of Italy. Germany played a counter tactic against an offensive and midfield focused Italy. How did you prepare the game and did you think about also going full offensive?

[Gave_] Going full offensive was my very first idea here, but I needed to change it as soon as I saw the actual ratings we could produce. Playing MOTS we couldn't even match Italy's PIN midfield.
We had a TS disadvantage because of the two PINs we had spent to survive round 4, which just made it impossible for us to play anything else than CA, especially if we wanted to have some TS left for a potential final.
So, thanks also to the fantastic CA-specialized defenders we had among the prospects, we built a strong defensive wall and three decent balanced offensive ratings, which gave us the best odds according to the predictor.

[Hardy_HH] Nothing to add here. We were just happy, that Italy tried to cover our possible MOTS on every possible way. A perfect game to me and I was really, really satisfied after the win.

The final against U-20 of Oceania was (to me) kind of a surprise, but the game wasn’t. Germany played an offensive 3-4-3, clearly anticipating on a full defensive counter of Oceania. How did you know Oceania was going to play in a very defensive counter formation? Based on the ratings, you deserved the win but the tension remained until the final whistle as the game ended in 2-1 for Germany. How did you follow the game and what was your feeling after the final whistle?

[Hardy_HH] Yeah, we reached more I ever dreamed of. What a fantastic run and what an experience it was. But, we´ve also seen many crazy games, many crazy results. So I was not sure what to expect. But even with a surprising result we would have got the silver medal, so I was relaxed.
Oceania tried to play a mind game, as they kicked out players before the final, but this just lead us to play full offensive. So I was also really relaxed when the game started and I saw the ratings. The game itself was a bit … boring, as it didn’t have a lot of action.

[Gave_] Again, a huge part here is played by TS of the teams: we had like 7 levels more than Oceania so there was no other option for them than playing CA. They never could have matched our midfield in any way.
To be honest I wasn't much nervous there, because I knew we had already reached a huge achievement (a medal) and we had also played the semi-finals perfectly, so even if it was possible to lose now, I could have accepted it.
I felt much more tension the game against Angola and for the two last games of round 4 (vs South Africa and Estonia) because there I knew there was the possibility to leave the tournament empty handed.
I followed the game live like all the other National matches: chatting with some other Italian HT users via skype and broadcasting on Twitch as "HT radio”, which is always fun!
At the final whistle I felt very relaxed, because I knew we got what we deserved from that match and nothing could go wrong anymore after that moment. To be honest I expected to win the game easily thanks to the TS advantage.

Interview continues here: (22063)

2021-03-03 15:11:23, 8642 views

Link directly to this article (HT-ML, for the forum): [ArticleID=22061]

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