Saturday, October 21, 2017

Lopetegui calms Pique retirement panic

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 10 Oct 2016

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Spain boss Julen Lopetegui does not believe Gerard Pique will definitely quit Spain duty in 2018, despite his claims that criticism has driven him to international retirement.

The centre-back was the subject of more debate on social media on Sunday after it was claimed that he cut the sleeves off his jersey prior to the World Cup qualifier with Albania as they were trimmed with the design of the Spanish flag.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) released a statement to explain that Pique’s shirt had never incorporated that design and that his decision to cut it was simply due to comfort.

Pique, meanwhile, responded furiously to the accusations and said that he would not play for his country again after the 2018 World Cup finals as a result of what he considers to be consistently unjust treatment.

Lopetegui, however, says they must “let he dust to settle” before any final decisions are taken.

“It doesn’t deserve any comment. It doesn’t seem serious to me,” he said when asked about the issue after Spain’s 2-0 victory.

“I understand Pique. I’m just saying that he had a brilliant game and that he’s been one of our most outstanding players, as he was against Italy. He had a fantastic game, just like Sergio [Ramos].

“I have nothing more to say. We need calm and quiet. Pique’s commitment is beyond doubt.

“I don’t want to get further tangled up in it. Let’s let the dust settle a little. We don’t have to draw too many conclusions.”

Diego Costa and Nolito each scored in the second half to give Spain a valuable three points, following their 1-1 draw with Italy in Turin on Thursday.

Lopetegui opted to switch to a 3-4-3 set-up in Shkoder, but he denied that he had been taught a useful lesson in terms of tactical approach.

“France lost here and it went very badly for Portugal,” he said. “We did things right and were lucky to have success early in the second half and thus play with a little more calm.

“There was no tactical lesson. The players are the protagonists and I tried to help them, nothing more than that.

“We came through two extremely difficult games, showing how difficult it is to win anywhere. It’ll be a very tough qualifying campaign.”

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