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To Russia with boos but Pique here to stay

first_imgSpain To Russia with boos, but Pique is here to stay for Spain Ben Hayward Spanish Football Correspondent Last updated 2 years ago 05:17 10/7/17 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(2) Gerard Pique Spain Getty Images Spain WC Qualification Europe Spain v Albania Albania Barcelona World Cup Primera División Opinion The Barcelona defender was whistled by fans in Alicante during La Roja’s 3-0 win over Albania, but they had better get used to having him around To Russia with boos. Spain sealed top spot in Group G and automatic qualification for next summer’s World Cup with a comprehensive victory over Albania in Alicante that was effectively all over inside half an hour. It was a quite superb showing from Julen Lopetegui’s side, sadly marred by the fans’ treatment of Gerard Pique.The Barcelona defender has been in the eye of the storm over the past few days due to Sunday’s referendum in Catalunya, when he spoke emotionally after his side’s 3-0 win over Las Palmas, played behind closed doors as a protest at the brutal violence by Spanish police against Catalan citizens.The 30-year-old was then booed by fans in training in Madrid with the Spain side ahead of the game against Albania and spoke honestly in a press appearance on Monday, in which he reiterated his commitment to La Roja. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Why Barcelona god Messi will never be worshipped in the same way in Argentina Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. Gerard Pique Spain“If the coach or any director of the Federation thinks that I am a problem for the national team, I will step aside before the World Cup,” Pique said at Camp Nou on Sunday as he spoke to reporters in the mixed zone.By Monday, however, he was determined to stay. “The first day of training was difficult. Nobody likes it when there are people against you. It’s not pleasant to receive insults,” he said. “But it’s a challenge for me. I want to help the national team in every way I can, above all on the pitch.”And he added: “I came here 15 years ago and it’s been like a family to me. It’s one of the big reasons I keep coming here. My commitment has always been to the utmost. I feel proud to be with the national team. Don’t doubt my commitment.”Spain World Cup GFXPique won praise from many quarters after answering numerous questions in a frank fashion during that appearance and he was unsurprisingly named in the starting XI to face Albania by Lopetegui on Friday.There were boos before kick-off and again during the match, every time Pique touched the ball. And although some cheered, there were more jeers for the Barca defender. Luckily though, the player himself did not appear to be overly affected by the reaction of those supporters.Even without Andres Iniesta, Spain sparkled and all three goals were wonderful. The first saw Isco find Rodrigo Moreno with an incisive pass, the latter hammering home a volley after chesting the ball down. The second was a superb strike from Isco himself, in fantastic form all evening, while the third was a powerful header from Thiago following one of many excellent crosses from the impressive debutant right-back Alvaro Odriozola.Rodrigo SpainIsco SpainSpain took their feet off the pedals after that and Albania had a couple of chances themselves, one after Pique was dispossessed in the area. However, the result was never in any danger and after Italy were held at home by Macedonia, Lopetegui’s side sealed top spot in Group G with the 3-0 win.Pique was booked and misses the trip to Israel next week. And he may well be happy about that after the events over the past few days. After that, there is a friendly away to Germany in March and then the World Cup.Spain 7/1 to lift the World CupBy that time, things should have died down. And if they have not, then it is a poor show from Spain supporters. Pique is a World Cup winner and European champion with La Roja and whatever his opinions about Catalunya, he only wants to help Spain win the game’s greatest prize in Russia next summer. So it is time to back him, not boo him.last_img read more