Arsène Wenger: political demonstrations were a distraction for teams at the World Cup

Arsène Wenger, director of football development at FIFA, said on Sunday that the teams that are “mentally ready” and “decided to focus on the competition and not on political demonstrations,” had given themselves more chances of winning their first match at the World Cup.

“When you play a World Cup, you know you mustn’t lose the first game. There are teams which have experience, which have had results in previous tournaments, such as France, England, Brazil, which have won their first match,” Wenger said during a press conference of the body’s technical studies group.

“And there are also the teams that were mentally ready, that were determined to focus on the competition and not on political demonstrations,” added the former Arsenal manager. The eliminations from the group stage of Germany and Denmark, leading teams in particular on the issue of wearing the inclusive “One Love” armband, appear to illustrate his point.

Although, this is countered by Australia, who produced the biggest pre-tournament political stance against Qatar and perhaps outperformed expectations the best.

Arsène Wenger also presented several tactical and statistical findings on the first round of the tournament, highlighting in particular the sharp increase in goals scored from crosses (+83%) compared to the 2018 World Cup. “It’s more open on the wings. This gives an important role to wide players. I believe that the teams with the best wingers will have the best chance of winning the tournament.”

He also felt that France is “still hungry” with “the appetite to win again.”


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