Lopetegui: Pique division stops now

Julen Lopetegui has called on Spain’s ‘phenomenal’ fans to unite behind Gerard Pique after La Roja’s qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

Pique put last weekend’s Catalan referendum behind him to start Spain’s 3-0 victory over Albania on Friday, before being substituted in the second half, and Lopetegui was “happy, satisfied and proud” with how the evening went.

“We’re happy, satisfied and proud,” the Coach said after the game.

“I’ve lived through this campaign with a lot of intensity and we sought the good of the team and a common goal at all times, which was very powerful.

“We have some extraordinary players and they’ve been the architects. They’ve shown enthusiasm and generosity.

“It was a group where we knew we had to be prepared to compete until the end. If you don’t play well against Albania, they can hurt you.

“We only focused on sporting matters and our attentions weren’t diverted elsewhere. We’re pleased to have qualified in first place.

“De Gea? He’s been very important. David’s done great and we’re happy about his performances. It’s not easy to play like he has in a team like ours.

“Were the bookings for Pique and Silva premeditated? I never planned such a thing or prepared it. I don’t believe in things like that.

“Their cards were results of the game because there were one-on-ones and we lost control of the game at a certain point.

“How did the fans in Alicante respond to Pique? The fans were phenomenal.

“It’s about starting to put the focus back on the positive things about football and our country.

“It’s like when you look at a painting and you’re only fixated on a speck of dust.

“We have to celebrate the good things and we did so in the dressing room, where we sang and danced.

“Odriozola and Rodrigo? They had a tricky match to play in, but they showed what was required of a player in the national team: mentality and quality.

“They competed very well. Odriozola’s a young player and did phenomenally. I have the feeling that at 3-0 up, we lost control of the game and it became difficult for us.”

Tags 2018 World Cup Albania Gerard Pique Julen Lopetegui Spain