The Rhine derby will be an opportunity for Borussia Möchengladbach to reward the fans after a difficult season. Breel Embolo talks about his recent form, the upcoming game against 1. FC Köln, and his ambitions with the Swiss national team.
You scored two goals in the last three games. How does that feel?
It is difficult season for us mentally, also for me. A lot of ups but also lows that we didn’t expect. As a player, especially as a striker you are always happy when you score. Of course, the base for that is that you play well. If you don’t deliver a good performance, it is difficult. I know that I have to create chances and it was important that I had enough confidence to do that. We still have a really good team, and I wouldn’t want to change anything about it. It is a really difficult season, but we still try to approach it one game at a time. Every game starts at 0-0 and we try to give something back to the fans We are so happy that the fans are back and if you can score as a striker, it is always nice.
The last years have shown that your team has the potential to be one of the best in the Bundesliga. What is the reason that you aren’t as good this season?
Although we are convinced of our capabilities the confirmation this year came short. We lost unnecessary points. We switched to the passive mode after dominating the games in the first 50-60 minutes and then lost control. A good example is last weekend where we played on a good level in the first half and then in the second half we didn’t. Out of a reason which is not explainable. We are there, we discuss the issues, we analyze again and it works for two or three games, but then the moment comes again. It is important that we realize that on the pitch, we still must stay compact and not passive even if the opponents are becoming more aggressive.
In these situations, we must take a step forward as a team. We are a young team which should not be underestimated. Still, you can expect from us that with so many national players and quality on the pitch, we should manage to perform. Like I said before, it is a special season. Not only for the players but also for the club. We accept that but we are still moving forward. Of course, you also have to look at the past, but our focus is on moving forward. With our quality we must play like we want to beat the opponent every week. That is our goal.
Have you ever experienced a season with so many ups and downs as yours?
No. However, I have experienced some extreme situations. For example, the match against France in the Euros 2020, where we should have gone 2-0 ahead, maybe even 3-0, but instead France take the lead and it’s 1-3. We still managed to turn the game around and win on penalties. That’s football. Sometimes it is fair and sometimes it isn’t. The situation can change quickly. Details are decisive and at a high level, it is a very hard game. The difference is how eager and how intensely you play both with and without the ball. How bad you want the victory, even if it requires you to dig deep. I don’t think that this defines us as a team but nowadays, to get even one point, let alone three, you must play hard but also composed, in certain situations. I think that we are missing this a bit. However, like I said I would never change my team because my teammates have a lot of quality and potential. That’s why you must learn from that as a player.
Yann Sommer is remarkably good at the moment. Does that surprise you?
Yann is insane. I already knew him from my time at FC Basel. I played with him in the national team. It doesn’t surprise me anymore. He is probably one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the world. That is my opinion at least. I play with him regularly, so I always get to see his ability firsthand. Of course, we are happy that we have such a great guy in the team, who is also an excellent goalkeeper. He is a great individual, that is very important for us. What he shows every week, not just this season but also last season is the reward for his hard work. I know how Yann ticks, how he prepares for games. It makes me happy that he can show how great he is.
To what extent is the derby against 1. FC Köln a chance to bond with the fans?
A derby is always special. 1. FC Köln are in front of us in the table. They are playing really well and with high intensity. They’ve got a really good new coach. They are an example of what you can achieve with passion and when you act together as a team. They are doing well, but I am convinced that we can beat them here at home, and that is something we really need to do. The first leg was not good for us. We were quite evenly matched for 60-70 minutes in their stadium, and we came back, but some silly mistakes cost us the game. The loss was a bitter pill to swallow. We want to change that of course. Not just for this season but also for our pride. We want to win against every team, but against Köln it is of course a special game and for that reason we play football. All of us have been here for years. We have some young players like Joe (Scally), Manu (Koné), Luca (Netz), that are not as experienced yet, but the squad has been there for some years now.
Is a derby win against Köln special compared to other wins?
Yes, definitely. I can remember the first away match against Köln where we won 1:0 – but really we should have won even 3-0 or 4-0. The feeling, the relief, and the joy is different. When I first came here there were older players that already knew what it felt like. Players like Tony (Jantschke) or Flaco (Patrick Herrmann). There is just a different atmosphere, a different tension. These players are really important because they help you understand the magnitude of these fixtures.
This week is very special, and if you can score in a derby, it is an incredible feeling for a striker – for anyone on the pitch, really. Because the match is so emotionally loaded. It’s all about the game but also about confirming your superiority, greatness, and history. I think that’s why we play football – to evoke emotions. These games are always special. It doesn’t mean that the better team always wins, these fixtures often throw up unpredictable results, and that’s what it is about. That’s why games like this are always special for a player, and loaded with such emotion.
You will meet your county of birth Cameroon with the Switzerland national team in the World Cup, and you are also have Brazil in your group. How do you feel about these games?
The most important thing is that we play in the world cup. We were in a similar group in the 2018 World Cup. The only difference is that now it’s Cameroon instead of Costa Rica. That’s why it is somehow a Déjà-vu.We will meet Brazil and it will be a tough match. Personally, I wished for Cameroon because I always wanted to play against my home country, but honestly when it happened, it was special. My family is very happy. I received a lot of messages on my phone. Maxim (Choupo-Moting) immediately messaged me. A lot of other players from Cameroon that I know did as well. But it is still a very long season to go. Of course, if there is a team that I support after Switzerland, it is Cameroon. Hopefully Switzerland will finish first and Cameroon second, that’s my wish.
How did you come to Switzerland from Cameroon?
My mother came to Germany for her job. My father still lives in Cameroon. So, I still have a big connection to the country as a big part of my family still lives there. I have a foundation there and I try to be there as much as possible. It depends on how much vacation we have. So, I try to visit my family, and not lose connection to my roots. I always find it special in Cameroon, it is so different to Europe and I have lots of memories of growing up there. For me, it is very important because I can relax there. I can go out and see different things, which gives me a lot of strength.
What are other goals for the future in football?
As a striker you always want to score more. I think that it is time for me to score in double digits in a season. I believe that I can achieve that through the chances I create in every game. I just want to play football and become the best I can be. I have personal ambitions; I want to win titles. I am hungry to win titles and to win as many games as possible. One day, when I’m 35 or 36, I want to be happy with how it all went, so I can focus on the next chapter in my life.