Former Germany international Oliver Bierhoff believes Joachim Low’s team selection could be influenced by a row over Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan’s involvement in a photo taken with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Both the Arsenal and Manchester City midfielders, who were each born in Turkey but chose to represent Germany at national team level, were criticised for taking the picture in London.
The head of Germany’s Football Federation (DFB) insisted that “it was not a good thing” for the players to take the picture, and Bierhoff believes that Low could be influenced by the backlash, which saw Germany fans whistle Gundogan during their friendly against Saudi Arabia.
“Jogi [Low] does not make any populist decisions just to satisfy someone, he rather looks at the sporting side of things,” Bierhoff told Bild when asked about a possible influence on the starting formation. “But [the scandal] could as well be a small aspect [in the decision-making process].”
Ozil has not commented on the issue, and Bierhoff does not expect him to, which has reignited a discussion over Turkish immigrants within Germany.
“It’s obvious that the discussion over integration should not end here, and also not that over the photo,” Bierhoff added.
“We must continue to face this issue and account for it. We have a lot of players in our academies with a migrant background. This goes far beyond the Erdogan photo.
“But my request is only to allow the players to focus on the tournament during the World Cup.”
Germany face Mexico, Sweden and South Korea in Group F in Russia, and are considered one of the favourites to win the World Cup.
Ozil has won 90 caps for Germany, compared to Gundogan’s 26.