At the beginning of December, Domenico Tedesco sat in his dentist’s waiting room and whiled away the time catching up on what was happening in the football world. When he read about Roberto Martínez’s retirement from the Belgium national team, he had an epiphany.

“I sent a screenshot directly to a friend and wrote: ‘Whoa, that would be a cool job. Good team, good players’,” he says in an interview with the German Press Agency: “I knew in the end that it would be like this but didn’t think about it at the moment.”

The 37-year-old assures that he didn’t push it himself. An advisor approached him, he went through an application process and was introduced on February 8th as the coach of the 2018 World Cup third. And thus to the currently youngest national coach of a top team. But he knows that. At Erzgebirge Aue he was the youngest second division coach at the age of 31, at Schalke a few months later the youngest in the club’s history. “Looked at in that way, it’s nothing new,” he says with a laugh, “but it doesn’t sound that bad in principle.”

Duel in Cologne

Which doesn’t sound bad either: The EM 2024 will take place in Germany. And his second international match on Tuesday (20:45 / RTL) in Cologne. He assures that he is looking forward to this test, which was set before he started, against a team “with huge potential and great players”.

The EURO as a prospect played a “rather secondary” role in his decision. “It’s not like I said: There’s a European Championship coming up in Germany, so I have to see that I become a national coach somewhere,” he says: “Not at all. It’s a nice story, but until then it’s over there’s still a long way to go.” Austria with coach Ralf Rangnick, Sweden, Estonia and Azerbaijan are the opponents in the qualification, the start was promising with the 3-0 win in Sweden on Friday.

Tedesco explains that becoming a national coach was not part of a fundamental life plan. And he doesn’t look forward to becoming a national coach in Germany or his native country, Italy: “It’s always just about doing what feels right from the current point of view.”

He apparently lacked this feeling with one or the other request from the club that he had received since leaving Leipzig in September. His name had been mentioned in Hoffenheim or Nice. Only in Belgium did he grab it. It “simply fitted from the first second,” he says. It was “attractive to be able to press the reset button and also be able to change a few things in such a football nation after a World Cup that didn’t go as planned.”

Basics are very good

He thinks the conditions are good. It is also not thankless to follow the popular Martínez after six years. “I see it rather positively,” he says: “Excellent work has been done and the basics are very good. In club football you often have the other case that there were maybe two coaches there the year before. Believe me: that’s it not easier either.”

However, he admits that the topic of the “golden generation” is “a difficult one”. For years everyone raved about this team. After the preliminary round at the World Cup in Qatar, many tipped that it was the last chance for the title for years. Because the “golden generation” is simply too old. “The players have assured that it doesn’t affect them. But as is so often the case with such issues, that’s probably a three-quarters truth,” says Tedesco: “If you hear it again and again, you’ll believe it at some point. But you become part of the team can’t find anyone who says: It’s all over now. On the contrary. Everyone is highly motivated.”

Many talents

Only Eden Hazard (32), defender Toby Alderweireld (34) and substitute goalkeeper Simon Mignolet (35) have resigned. Captain in Sweden was Kevin De Bruyne (31). Tedesco did without ex-Dortmunder Axel Witsel (34) when he was first nominated. In principle, age does not play a role, not even with a view to the EM. “In a national team it’s always the status quo that counts,” he says.

Basically, there are also many talented young players in Belgium, emphasizes Tedesco, who from the Bundesliga Koen Casteels (30), Sebastiaan Bornauw (24 / both VfL Wolfsburg), Thomas Meunier (31 / Borussia Dortmund) and Dodi Lukebakio (25 / Hertha BSC) nominees. Lukebakio shone twice as a set-up for Romelu Lukaku’s hat-trick in Sweden, after which he praised his national team coach: “He put his trust in me and told me to go out and have fun.” Tedesco and the Belgians had it.