Berlin – A topic that has been discussed for months in the world of German football: When will Niklas Stark finally make his national team debut? However, this debate was put to rest at 22:04 CET on Thursday evening. Head coach Joachim Löw brought the Hertha man on in place of Lukas Klostermann for his long-awaited debut on his fifth ever call-up. “It’s been a long time coming,” Hertha’s number five said with a grin on his face. “I’ve worked really hard to earn my debut and I’m delighted that it’s finally happened!” herthabsc.de spoke to the debutant about returning to club football after representing his nation for the first time, the long wait, and the important game at FC Augsburg on Sunday (15:30 CET).
herthabsc.de: Nik, the wait is finally over. You’ve made your debut and you’re now a German national team player. How does it feel?
Stark: It’s been a long time coming (laughs). I’ve worked really hard for this moment and I’m delighted that it’s finally happened. It was also nice to win the match and confirm our place as group winners in my first ever game. I had lots of family members watching in the stadium as well, and received lots of messages of congratulations from my friends.
herthabsc.de: How did it feel to play your first ever minutes for your country?
Stark: I still had a job to do (grins). I wasn’t thinking about it until after the final whistle. But, as I said, I’m really happy to have got my first few minutes for the national team under my belt and we can move on from this now. Nevertheless, we have a huge tournament ahead of us next summer and I can’t afford to sit back and relax. My next objective is to make sure I go to the tournament with the team.
herthabsc.de: You had to be very patient to wait for your first cap. Be honest, how often did you speak about this subject and how glad are you that it’s finally over now?
Stark: I’m really happy about it. Even if you have to joke about it, there’s always going to be a bitter taste in your mouth. I’m so relieved that it’s finally happened.
herthabsc.de: You’re back in Berlin and the focus now switches to Sunday’s game against Augsburg. Will the last few days help to motivate both you and the rest of the team ahead of the big game?
Stark: Time will tell, but I hope so. I will try to bring everything I learnt during the international break into my game. But of course, the situation at the weekend is completely different so I need to readjust. We’re expecting a difficult game so we need to be prepared for it!
herthabsc.de: Concentration is the keyword; after Augsburg you will only play against teams from the top half of the table. How important is this match for the rest of the Hinrunde, and what are you going to do to try to turn the match in your favour?
Stark: We will have to wait and see. Of course it’s a good opportunity and it’s an important game. But we showed last season that we can take points from the big teams aswell. However we’re not thinking about that at the moment; the most important thing is to focus on the upcoming game against Augsburg.
herthabsc.de: The stats are in your favour for this game: you’re unbeaten in nine matches against FC Augsburg. Does this play a role in your preparation for the game and in your mentality?
Stark: Not at all. We know that every single match is different. It’s always difficult to play at Augsburg so we need to start the game well. We need to work well together as a team, both defensively and offensively. Then hopefully we can win the three points.