Hansi Flick unequivocally dismissed the suggestion Germany lost their World Cup opener against Japan because they were distracted by the controversy surrounding the OneLove campaign.
Germany were one of several European teams planning to have their captains wear the OneLove armband to highlight discrimination and human rights abuses by World Cup host nation Qatar, where homosexuality is criminalised.
In response, FIFA threatened to apply “sporting sanctions” to the teams involved, who all subsequently backtracked on their commitment to wear the armbands.
Germany felt FIFA was attempting to “silence” them, and they responded by holding their hands over their mouths while lining up for a team photo before the match against Japan.
After they ended up losing to the Samurai Blue, some Germany critics tried to link their defeat to the idea they were distracted by their moral stance.
When Flick was asked if that was the case ahead of Sunday’s pivotal clash with Spain, his response was blunt.
“No,” he said followed by a long pause. “Not at all.”
Flick was surprisingly attending Saturday’s pre-match press conference alone.
Wir wollten mit unserer Kapitänsbinde ein Zeichen setzen für Werte, die wir in der Nationalmannschaft leben: Vielfalt und gegenseitiger Respekt. Gemeinsam mit anderen Nationen laut sein. Es geht dabei nicht um eine politische Botschaft: Menschenrechte sind nicht verhandelbar. 1/2
— DFB-Team (@DFB_Team)
Teams are contracted to attend the events with at least their head coach and one player, and they can be fined if they fail to adhere to those rules.
However, Germany are based in the very north of the country near Al Ruwais, meaning any player attending a press conference will be away from training for approximately three hours.
Given the crucial nature of Sunday’s encounter, Flick was simply unwilling to compromise the team’s preparations by allowing a player to attend, even if it means the German football Association (DFB) potentially copping a fine.
“I came by myself to the press conference because we didn’t want any player to spend almost three hours driving. We don’t expect any player to drive for so long. It’s a long drive,” he said.
“It’s a very important match, so everyone, all 26 players are important [for training], that’s why we didn’t want to take a player with us. They should now prepare for the training.
“I think we could have done [the press conference] in our media centre as well, that is really good, it would have been better. But we have to accept this.”
Earlier on Saturday, Spain coach Luis Enrique said Germany were the team most similar to La Roja at the World Cup in terms of their style of play.
7 – Spain achieved their biggest win in World Cup history, surpassing the 6-1 win over Bulgaria in 1998, becoming the first team to score seven goals from just eight shots on target in a single game in the history of the tournament since 1966. Overwhelming
— OptaJose (@OptaJose)
Flick concurred, and although Spain thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 on matchday one, the Germany coach chose to remain optimistic as he urged his team to be courageous at Al Bayt Stadium.
Asked about Luis Enrique’s assessment, Flick added: “I can only confirm this. I think both teams, if you look at systems, it’s one-to-one in each position, and this is what we tell our players, to be in position to win the duels.
“Spain, of course, is a team who have always played the 4-3-3 formation like Barcelona, regardless of their opponent. They then have clear automatic moves and we need to find a way against it, we have a plan and we hope to implement it.
“[Germany’s situation] could’ve been avoided, but we still stick to our guns because we have the quality. We can implement what we want.
“This is what it’s all about, being brave, believing in our quality and going into the match like that.”