SALZBURG, Austria — Borussia Dortmund captain Marcel Schmelzer said that the team had no excuses left after crashing out of the Europa League against Salzburg on Thursday.
Schmelzer, 28, slammed his team for not showing up in either leg against Salzburg which finished 2-1 on aggregate after Thursday’s scoreless draw as BVB failed to find a way back from loss at the Westfalenstadion.
“Our mentality couldn’t have been at 100 percent in either game,” Schmelzer told reporters after the game, criticising fellow players for openly talking about winning the Europa League.
“Talking about the title was maybe the problem. You have to take every match and every round seriously. This is something I cannot comprehend.
“If you talk about the big thing first instead is taking it step by step, this is exactly the result. This is why we now have to admit that we deservedly were knocked out [of the Europa League].”
After setting a negative record in the Champions League by achieving a third-place finish with only two points in a group consisting of Real Madrid, Tottenham and Cypriot minnows APOEL, BVB’s disappointing international campaign continued in the Europa League.
The Black and Yellows exit the European stage having only won one out of 10 European games this season.
“The only thing that counts now is that we have to show [our best] in the remainder of the Bundesliga,” Schmelzer said.
“There are no excuses now that we have to play every three days. We can now have a whole week to prepare for the games like everyone else.
“Again, there are no excuses now. We have to play with all our effort now because I — and I hope other teammates feel the same — want to play Champions League next year.
“We have a tough schedule ahead and the games against Salzburg serve as a prime example that you cannot achieve anything without showing 100 percent in attitude, effort and will.”
Dortmund only managed to create chances on regular basis in the final 20 minutes of the match at the Red Bull Arena after they needed goalkeeper Roman Burki to come up big against Hee-Chan Hwang and Xaver Schlager in the first half. Peter Stoger took both Mario Gotze and Marco Reus off at half-time, saying that the latter suffered a slight knock.
Schmelzer explained the tactical thought behind the double-substitution as winger Maximilian Philipp and centre-forward Alexander Isak entered the field: “In the first half we wanted to create chances by building from the back but that didn’t work well, which was partly down to the pitch and our own individual errors. It only invited our opponent to create chances from counter-attacks.
“At half-time we discussed whether it would make sense to play more long balls. However, the long balls were not as effective as we had hoped even though we brought on another striker. We failed to hold up the ball up front or to extend it [into the path of an attacker].
“Thus, it was quite hard to create chances.”
Stoger meanwhile, said that the less spoken about Dortmund’s first half, the better.
“Maybe it was best to be speechless, otherwise I may have verbally assaulted someone,” the 51-year-old quipped at his news conference after the game with a wry smile.
“Reus had muscular problems.
“We were not at all happy with Mario Gotze.”
Borussia Dortmund will host Hannover on Sunday in the Bundesliga before the international will interrupt league play for two weeks.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.