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Profile picture of Arsene Wenger© AFP

Teams that focus on football rather than “political demonstrations” perform better in the opening round of the World Cup, Wenger said on Sunday. The former Arsenal manager now works for FIFA as its head of global football development and made the unsolicited remarks during a news conference looking at trends in Qatar’s now-concluded group stage.

“When you go to the World Cup, you know you can’t lose the first game,” the 73-year-old said, adding that teams with World Cup experience, such as defending champions France, won the opening game.

Wenger then added: “And the teams who are mentally prepared, they have the mentality to focus on the game and not on political demonstrations.”

Germany covered their mouths as they posed for photos ahead of their opening match against Japan to protest FIFA’s refusal to allow the captains of seven European teams to wear rainbow-themed armbands.

The four-time champions lost 2-1 and were eventually eliminated in the group stage. The World Cup has been overshadowed by some controversies on and off the field, notably when it comes to gay rights.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Germany captain Manuel Neuer was one of captains planning to wear rainbow-themed armbands to promote diversity, dropped the initiative after FIFA threatened their teams with sporting sanctions.

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By Rebecca French

Rebecca French writes books about Technology and smartwatches. Her books have received starred reviews in Technology Shout, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller...