Interview with the finalist captains of Euro 2020 interviews the captains of the two finalist teams for Euro 2020

On the occasion of the Euro 2020 final that will be held next Sunday at 19:00 UTC + 1, we wanted to speak with the captains of the finalist teams, Russia and Germany. The Russian captain, Vladimir Kovalev, and the German, Christoph Peruth, tell us a little about their feelings during the championship and tell us some curiosities about their teams.

Before you read their responses, we want to wish the best of luck to both teams and may the best of them win. May the luck be with you!

Did you expect to reach this final?

VK Statistically, according to the average Elo, the Russian national team is consistently in the top 3 teams in Europe. So this was to be expected.

CP We are very pleased to have reached the final. Before the tournament started, we knew that our third place at the World Championship could mean that we have a good chance of reaching the final at the Euro Championship. However, our group stage was anything but convincing. Although we were able to clearly beat some strong teams like Romania or Catalonia, we lost games against supposedly weaker teams. It was therefore uncertain whether we would even make it to the knockout round. But we did it and also performed well against Netherlands and United Kingdom in the quarter and semifinals and could prove that we are one of the favourite teams for the title. So we’re very happy to be in the final against Russia now and hope for a great match

How do you organize yourself in the team? How do you decide who plays each game?

VK Before most matches, we organize mini-tournaments and determine the line-up based on their results.

CP We are all in a Whatsapp group. As the captain, I usually ask my teammates on Friday when they have time for the next week’s match. Then the players send me the days within a few hours. I go through all days and check where we have 5 players and then I send these days to the opposing captain on the same day or on Saturday at the latest. Unfortunately, not all teams are that fast, so sometimes I suggested Monday or Tuesday as the match date, but only got an answer from my opponent on Wednesday, which was a bit unfortunate. We had a few situations sadly, where it felt like, that the opponent teams were procrastinating the answer intentionally, so that most of the german suggestions are gone and we were forced to play on a day, which was actually a no go for us. But on the other hand we also experienced the complete opposite, especially during the knockout round. The matchmaking with Netherlands and also the United Kingdom was great. In both matches we tried to find solutions that suit both teams, so that every team is able to play with their best possible line up and has no disadvantage. And that’s how it should be!

Choosing who will play is not always easy, especially when you have a team that not only consists of 10 players, but also 10 very good players who do not differ that much in their skill level, as we can see it in other teams. If only 5 players have time on a match date, then it´s easy. But sometimes we have the situation that 8 or 9 people have time. Then I look at the game statistics and check who didn’t play that much so far, to make sure that everyone on the team kinda had the same amount of games. But most of the time it’s not that big of a struggle as some players would like to spend time with their family, so they step back and let another teammate play. And for the line up, I simply roll dice

What are the strengths of your team? How do you collectively motivate yourselves?

VK Our strength is diversity. The distance between the two most distant players of the Russian national team is more than 6000 kilometers, many of us are representatives of different ethnic groups, the son of the older player of our team is almost the same age as the younger one player, and we are all passionate about carcassonne.

Russian team members and achievements of each player

CP I think our greatest strength is that we really are a team. Not just ten players who were thrown together and play a game once a week. Most of us know each other personally through tournaments and we like and appreciate each other very much.

Sometimes we also look at a player’s defeat and see what he could have done better or discuss the match again afterwards on Discord, where we hang out together when we play german tournaments as well. 

Another strength is that our skill level is very similar and the gap between us is not very large. So no matter who is playing, we always have a team that can be dangerous for our opponent.

We also have a lot of different playing styles in our team. We have some guys who really think long about every move and wanna play as efficiently as possible. Then we have some players find their own style of play and really know the best way possible to suit their style. Then we have players who just play by feeling and go with the flow and we also have some black horses in our team which are kinda unknown at the BGA and do some unexpected moves here and there. 

And we don’t have ego types in our team. Everyone is there for each other and even the best player would let the weakest play without hesitation. Having fun comes first, not victory – at least during the group stage.

German team members and achievements of each player

How do you collectively motivate yourselves?

VK We have a chat where we discuss upcoming games, other board games tournaments, and just some of the latest news and events from our lives. This chat is very rarely silent, so we are constantly in contact with each other. An hour before the game, I do a “roll call” and we just chat until the game starts.

CP Motivation before the match is not needed. It is more the opposite. It is very silent before the match and the players are very focused. We need silence for our concentration and everyone does his own business during the match. We don’t communicate during the match. Not on Discord and not at BGA. That would only distract us. But we are wishing each other a good game and luck for the match and we also write down the results in our Whatsapp group (sort of a live ticker), so that the other team mates who can’t follow the match are still up to date.

Any moment in which you stand out from the EURO?

VK I think our semi-final with Ukraine is the most highlighted moment of the tournament so far. It was very unusual for me to start my second game knowing that all the players on my team lost their first games and then start the third game knowing that we have already won.

CP For me as a player it was definitely my win against Dan in the semifinals against the United Kingdom. We played against each other already during the World Championship and met in a few other tournaments. It is always a pleasure but never a joy. As much as I like and value him as a person, I really hate to play against him. He has a style of play that somehow doesn’t suit me and mostly I lose and don’t even know why. So I used the afternoon of the matchday and analyzed about 10-15 of his games to find a way to beat him. I found a few weak spots in his game. But to take advantage of them, I had to change my playing style and make some moves against my nature, which is a very risky business. But in the end it paid off and I could beat him, which was a great relief for me. 

As a team, the moment is of course still to come, as we wanna win the title. But to be fair reaching the finals is already a great success and we can be proud of ourselves.

Any team that has surprised you?

VK The path of the Czech team in 1/4 was exciting.

CP I think this tournament had a lot of surprises – in a good and in a bad way. The good ones are of course the performances of some teams. For example the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. They did not do well during the World Championship but now they showed that they definitely are very strong teams and can compete with the best. The UK beating Russia to qualify for the knockout round, was a banger! Also Russia reaching the finals again (very easy I would say) is very impressive and simply shows why they are one of the best teams in the world. 

But of course there were also some upsets. Catalonia, Italy and France not reaching the knockout round was really a surprise to me, because they are great teams and couldn’t really reach their usual skill level.

And what surprised me the most is what I mentioned earlier … let’s call it “tactical match making”. There were a few teams, where it seemed that they are not really willing to find a date that suit both teams. They procrastinated answers for days to let match date proposals pass by or even forced dates that were a clear no go for the other teams. And it is not germany who experienced such behaviour. I talked with other team captains as well and they experienced the same, which is really sad. So hopefully we can fix this issue for the next time!

What do you think of this type of team competition?

VK I really like it. But I would like the tournament to last less time. Theoretically, it could be held even in 2-3 days, if you limit the number of games between players to two, limit the player’s time to 15 minutes (creating tournaments for each duel, or try to negotiate this mode with the BGA.

CP I love it! The world championship was already a great idea and it’s awesome that we have the euro championships now. It brings the Carcassonne community together and every player has the chance to be part of something “big” and to play against the best of the world. I am really looking forward to seeing new and fresh tournaments. Maybe a big Single competition or a tag-team competition one day. That would be crazy as well. But of course it’s a lot of work, especially for you guys. So once again thank you so much for the organisation and all that stuff around! Very much appreciated.

How do you see the fans for Carcassonne in your country?

VK In my opinion, Carcassonne is one of the most popular modern Board games in Russia.

CP As Carcassonne is a german game, a lot of people play the game. But they do it just for fun and not on a competitive level. I guess most people don’t even know that german championships (or tournaments at all) exist. Some big german Youtubers sometimes play Carcassonne and these videos have a lot of views. So there is definetly a big fanbase for the game. But when it comes to the competitive site, you always see the same faces. It´s not bad, because it´s like a big family, but I guess a bit of fresh new air wouldn’t be so bad

What does Carcassonne lack at a competitive level?

VK Carcassonne is a great competitive game that only needs additional promotion.

CP It is probably the lack of tournaments. That’s why it’s great, that we have people like you who take the game to the next level and bring some fresh events to the scene.

Offline we only have one big tournament, which is the world championship. In germany we have a season and a lot of offline and online tournaments to qualify for the german championship. But I know from talking with other people, that there are countries that don’t really have any tournaments at all. Not even a national championship. So it would be nice to have more official (big) tournaments, no matter if they are offline or online.

And another issue is probably that the popularity of the game is very different in each country and therefore there is also a huge difference in the competitive game. There are countries like Germany, Japan, Russia and probably others where the national championship is maybe harder than the actual world championship (which doesn’t mean, that winning the WC isn’t a huge success). Other countries have only one top player (maybe two). So talking to some participants at the world championship, they agreed to my thoughts, saying that there are a handful of top players at the WC, and then there is a big gap in skill level. 

That’s why I love the new competitions that brought to life. So a lot of people can play World Championships and European Championships. People where the skill level in their country is very high and therefore they maybe never have the chance to go to a big tournament and also people who don’t have a competitive scene in their country at all. And everyone can win a title. Maybe that’s something for future offline tournaments as well, that there are some sort of qualification or ranking tournaments online, where everyone can participate. And then the best of the best qualify for the world championships offline for example. We have some great competitions at the BGA, but they are all unofficial and turn based. I hope that might change one day

If you win, do you have any promise or collective challenge?

VK If we win, I will not play Carcassonne at the BGA until the next Russian tournament or the announcement of an international team.tournament. My wife would be very happy.

CP Actually not. Maybe we’re gonna celebrate a bit on Discord, but I don’t think so, to be honest. If we could get a “European Champion” shirt sponsored by Hans im Glück (Carcassonne publisher), this would be awesome!