Bale open to Wales display 'outside of the game' as Page suggests Germany regret team photo

FIFA

Gareth Bale insisted any political statement from Wales would take place "outside of the game" as manager Rob Page suggested Germany lost focus during the OneLove armband saga.

Wales and Germany were two of the teams set to support the OneLove campaign, which promotes "inclusion and sends a message against discrimination of any kind".

But FIFA threatened sporting sanctions – expected to be yellow cards – if their captains wore armbands carrying the logo, prompting those involved to back down.

Germany responded with a unique protest, covering their mouths for a pre-match team photo against Japan in reference to FIFA "denying us a voice".

However, Germany then lost to Japan in a result that puts them at risk of elimination already.

Die Mannschaft coach Hansi Flick insisted after Wednesday's match the demonstration could not be used as an excuse, but Bale hinted at it in his news conference the following day, while Page openly cited Germany's example.

"We weren't too happy about not being able to wear it with the sanctions that would have been put in place," Bale said.

"I know people said I should have worn it, but I would have been sent off after about 25 minutes. Of course we support it, but we're here to play football at the same time.

"Just by not wearing the armband doesn't mean we don't support it. We're all for equality, and we're always trying to do the right thing, trying to create that awareness.

"In terms of doing something else, I guess when teams try to do something else and the result doesn't go the right way, they get criticised for not concentrating on the football.

"For us, now the tournament's started, we really need to concentrate on the football for ourselves. But outside of the game, if there's anything we can do to raise awareness or support, we'll definitely do that."

Page said: "We've got campaigns going on that we're fully supportive of as an association and as a Welsh government.

"I want my players to focus fully on playing games of football and winning games. I'm sure Germany now, in hindsight, would probably have the same message."

Page, who confirmed Joe Allen was fit for Friday's meeting with Iran, was full of praise for Bale as he prepares to break Wales' caps record.

"I think it's gone to another level overnight again with what he's done," the Wales boss said of his captain, who netted their equaliser against the United States.

"He admits himself it probably wasn't one of his better games over the 90 minutes, but when you need him, he delivers for you.

"If you wanted anybody in a pressurised situation to get a late equaliser, it would be Gareth Bale taking that penalty.

"He's done it time and time again for us. When we needed the win against Austria, he delivers goals, against Ukraine, he's the one to step up to take the free-kick to get us to the finals.

"He deserves all the credit he's getting at the moment."

Bale added: "I've not really focused too much on the cap thing, to be honest.

"Thinking about it now, it's an amazing achievement, an honour to represent my country so many times.

"But it's more important we try to get the victory tomorrow. Hopefully we can and make it even more special."