Friday, October 20, 2017

Lopetegui lauds Pique crowd response

SoccerNews in World Cup 6 Oct 2017

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Spain coach Julen Lopetegui was buoyant, despite a mixed reception for Gerard Pique during Friday’s 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Albania.

La Roja secured automatic qualification for Russia 2018 with the win, while the Alicante crowd gradually warmed to Pique, prompting Lopetegui to praise the local fans.

Outspoken defender Pique – who voted in Sunday’s Catalonia independence referendum – was booed by supporters as he entered training on Monday.

“The fans have been phenomenal,” Lopetegui said. “It starts to put the focus on the positive things in our football and our country.

“It is like when you see a painting and you just look at the speck of dust. We have to celebrate the good things and we have done it in the dressing room, singing and dancing.”

Whistled during Monday’s open training session, the Barcelona defender initially received the same treatment from the home fans on Friday.

The announcement of his name in the starting line-up pre-match was meet with jeers, along with his first touch.

However, Pique was brought off to predominant applause in the 60th minute.

Pique and David Silva will miss Spain’s final qualifier against Israel on Monday, after they both received yellow cards.

The 51-year-old boss was quick to quash any idea their suspensions were planned, though.

“I have never planned such a thing or prepared to do it. I do not believe in that,” Lopetegui said.

“The cards were the result of the game because there were disputes, and we lost control of the game at some point.”

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