World Cup: Germany team Qatar protest: Players divided before Japan loss

Incredible details are emerging about Germany’s surprise early exit at the World Cup — and the destructive impact of the team’s Qatar protest.

Belgium star Eden Hazard said Germany should focus on football rather than “political messages” after its shock opening World Cup loss to Japan — and it turns out he was right.

The German team covered their mouths for the team photo before the match in a powerful protest against FIFA’s decision to ban rainbow-themed armbands.

Germany’s football federation tweeted in English moments after the photo protest: “It wasn’t about making a political statement — human rights are non-negotiable.

“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

It was portrayed as a united front — but there are now reports the gesture potentially brought the team to its knees.

TV host Esther Sedlaczek first reported rumours of a dressing room rift while interviewing German chef-de-mission Oliver Bierhoff on World Cup broadcast rights holder ARD.

She said some players did not want to go through with the gesture after FIFA outlawed the “One Love” rainbow armbands European teams originally wanted their captains to wear.

“Would you say that the One-Love armband could have been handled better?” she asked.

“The fact is, according to our sources, not every player was OK with the gesture before the Japan game and that they worried that it would cause issues in the team.”

It has since been reported the majority of the players felt they were being used and it was a point of friction and discussions right up until the start of the game against Japan.

Local reports claim team leadership, including captain Manuel Neuer, were in favour of going through with the gesture.

Bierhoff admits the protest added more pressure onto the team — but doesn’t believe it had an impact in the team’s exit after finishing the group stage with four points. It was the second-consecutive campaign that has ended with a group stage exit for the 2014 World Champions.

Belgium players told ‘don’t fly home with us’

Five Belgium players reportedly took earlier flights home to the rest of the squad after crashing out of the World Cup.

The Red Devils exited the tournament in the group stage after failing to beat Croatia in their final match.

Roberto Martinez’s side created plenty of chances against the 2018 finalists but were unable to find a clinical finish, The Sun reports.

Some of the players were visibly devastated at full-time, with Romelu Lukaku having to be consoled by assistant manager Thierry Henry.

The draw left Belgium in third place, with Morocco finishing top and Croatia going through in second place.

Throughout the duration of the tournament, there have been reports of unrest in the team’s dressing room.

Stories of in-fighting started to emerge after they lost their second group game against Morocco.

It has now been reported that Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel, Jeremy Doku, Arthur Theate and Lois Openda opted to pay for their own flights home from Qatar, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.

The report also suggests that they arrived in Brussels before their teammates and that they went on an earlier flight.

Manager Martinez refuted the suggestions that there had been issues in the squad and instead suggested that it was the French media playing dirty tricks in order to distract his team.

The veteran coach stepped down after the defeat.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois came out and said that if the player that leaked the stories is found it would be their last time in the national team.

Ahead of their final game, the team performed a group huddle on the pitch as a sign of unity.

However, the stories that came out were damming as some suggested Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne clashed with Toby Alderweireld over the team’s style of play.

The midfielder also said that the team was “too old” to win the competition, which did not go down well with his teammates.

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