Panucci praises ‘brave’ Pique

Albania Coach and former Real Madrid defender Christian Panucci has praised Gerard Pique for ‘standing up for his beliefs’.

If Spain defeat Panucci’s Albania on Friday night they will virtually guarantee their passage through to next year’s World Cup due to their superior goal difference to Italy.

Julen Lopetegui’s side sit three points ahead of the Italians with two games remaining and possess a superior goal difference of 17, but the Albania boss will be hoping to do his home country a favour.

“He seems to be a very brave guy,” Panucci told a pre-match press conference.

“I really appreciate people who can stand up for what they believe in, he is not two-faced and he has earned all my respect.

“I do not wish to go into politics or discuss any political issues but others are entitled to do so.

“We want to give Spain a serious game and make things as complicated as possible, we don’t want to be making up the numbers.

“We have great respect for them of course and that should give us motivation, if it doesn’t then football isn’t the right career for my players.”

Tags Albania Christian Panucci Spain