Sergio Ramos posts celebratory photo with Spain squad after World Cup qualification

10 October, 2017, 00:42 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Andres Iniesta Albania Spain 09102016

Former World Cup winners Spain secured a berth at next year's World Cup with an easy 3-0 victory over Albania despite the home crowd's barracking of defender Gerard Pique highlighting divisions in the country amid domestic political turmoil. The Barcelona defender held a news conference two days later in a bid to defuse the controversy, saying he is fully committed to the national team despite his pro-Catalan independence vote stance.

"We are feeling very happy because we've achieved an objective that was really important for Spanish football", said Spain coach Julen Lopetegui.

Pique also fiercely criticised the Spanish government and prime minister Mariano Rajoy after Catalan officials said over 840 people had been injured in clashes with police as they stormed polling stations across the region.

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"Sport is not politics and we have to separate them. We have to turn the page with the Pique situation and it's time to focus on the game".

Pique's night at Alicante's Jose Rico Perez stadium did not run quite so serenely, however.

Barcelona's Gerrard Pique received a mixed response in the stadium as he made his 92nd worldwide appearance just after casting his vote in a referendum on Catalan independence, which was deemed illegal by the Spanish govt. Pique is being supported by his side, but has been on the receiving end of boos throughout the week. "In order to play a good game, we need the fans cheering us on". In the last five matches, Spain has won four matches, and one match ended in a draw and the team Albania has won two matches, lost two matches and the other match ended in a draw.

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They need to better Italy's result against Macedonia on Friday if they are to qualify for next year's World Cup.

The Manchester City midfielder is the only player Lopetegui has used in all 13 games he has taken charge of to date. "Albania are one of the best teams defensively, not just collectively but individually".

Albania were not expected to threaten Spain much, and early on, the match was one-way traffic. Most of their players compete in the Champions League and play in Italy.

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Albania wanted a penalty after a cross appeared to make contact with Jordi Alba's arm, and Arlind Ajeti threatened with a header that narrowly went wide.

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