Teams focusing on World Cup, not politics, have excelled, says Wenger

  • Former Arsenal manager spoke at Fifa technical analysis group
  • Germany and Denmark exited early after taking armband stand
  • The outcome of the World Cup group stages showed the teams that advanced without complication were those best prepared mentally and not distracted by political issues, according to the former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger.
  • Referring to shock exits by GermanyBelgium and Denmark, Wenger, speaking during a technical analysis of the group stages by Fifa, said it was notable the teams that focused on football and started well – such as Brazil, France and England – had easier passages to the last 16.
  • “The teams who were not disappointing in their first game performance – because when you got to the World Cup you know you have not to lose the first game – are the teams with experience, they have results … they played well in first game,” Wenger said. “The teams as well who were mentally ready and had the mindset to focus on the competition and not on political demonstrations.”
  • At the Qatar World Cup there has been an unusual amount of political discussion from teams, with some voicing concerns about the host country’s treatment of migrant labour, its approach to LGBTQ+ rights and Fifa’s threats to penalise players for political statements.
  • Germany’s soccer federation was the most vocal in pressing for anti-discrimination “OneLove” armbands to be worn by players and said “extreme blackmail” led to Germany, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Wales, England and Switzerland abandoning plans to wear them.
  • Before their surprise opening defeat by Japan, the Germany team posed for a pre-match photo with their hands on their mouths, alluding to them being silenced by Fifa.
  • Denmark also made a stand over the armbands and last month wanted to use a training kit with slogans in support for human rights.
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