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Lack of ‘Respect’ sleeve patch was not a FAW message to UEFA over Belarus game

Lack of ‘Respect’ sleeve patch was not a FAW message to UEFA over Belarus game

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The Football Association of Wales has made clear it did not slight UEFA over players not wearing ‘Respect’ sleeve patches in Wednesday’s friendly against Finland.

Wales and UEFA have been at loggerheads since European football’s governing body decided to stage Sunday’s 2022 World Cup qualifier with Belarus in the Russian city of Kazan.

Interim boss Robert Page has described going to Russia as a “logistical nightmare” and Wales raised some eyebrows by playing without the ‘Respect’ badge on their sleeves in Helsinki, whereas Finland promoted the UEFA message on their shirts.

“Sleeve patches are not a requirement for friendlies,” said an FAW spokesman stressing that no stance had been taken against UEFA.

“We didn’t wear them (in June friendlies) against France or Albania and neither did they.”

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Wales warmed up for their Kazan clash by drawing 0-0 in Finland.

Harry Wilson saw his first-half penalty saved as Page, without several regulars due to injury and coronavirus-related issues, named an inexperienced side possessing just 160 caps.

“It was a worthwhile exercise and a lot of them have given me a headache for Sunday,” said Page whose side follow their trip to Russia with another World Cup qualifier at home to Estonia on Wednesday.

“The two midfielders, Dylan (Levitt) and Matt (Smith), gave a good account of themselves.

“We know they are gifted footballers and that’s why they’re in the squad, but to go and give a performance like that was excellent.

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“We’ll see what we do on Sunday. We’ve had an issue at the top of the pitch with the injuries we’ve had and now losing Kieffer (Moore), and that’s something we need to look at.

“The good thing is that our players have been out playing games.

“It’s ironic that it’s been the most difficult camp coming into it with injuries and Covid.

“But this has been the first camp where we’ve had so many players coming into it playing football. We’ve seen the benefits with players hitting the ground running.”

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Hull loan signing Smith is among that number with the 21-year-old having started the Tigers’ last three Sky Bet Championship games.

Smith was the pick of the Wales bunch in Helsinki, impressing both in central midfield alongside Levitt and on the right late on where he produced a couple of brilliant crosses into the box.

“Playing (at Hull) has helped me massively,” said Smith, now on his fifth loan spell away from parent club Manchester City.

“I’m still young in the footballing game, and I’m try to improve and learn every day.

“Dylan is a very good player and I think we do work well together. The team is really gelling and coming together more with every camp.”

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