Thursday 26 April 2018

Pique jeered as Spain clinch finals spot

Spain's Rodrigo (left) celebrates with Jordi Alba after scoring the opener. Photo: Getty Images
Spain's Rodrigo (left) celebrates with Jordi Alba after scoring the opener. Photo: Getty Images

Spain sealed their place in next year's World Cup finals with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Albania in Alicante, where La Roja centre-back Gerard Pique was once again the target of whistles and jeers.

First-half goals from Rodrigo, Isco and Thiago helped make it eight wins from nine matches in Group G for Julen Lopetegui's unbeaten side.

The 2010 world champions are now guaranteed to finish in top spot as Italy, who started the day three points behind in second, could only draw 1-1 at home with FYR Macedonia.

Pique's night did not run quite so serenely, however. The Barcelona defender, who has found himself in the headlines and the firing line following last weekend's controversial independence referendum in Catalonia, received a mixed reception from the fans.

Iceland are on the brink of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time after recording a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Group I rivals Turkey in Istanbul.

The defeat ended Turkey's hopes of qualifying and moved Iceland two points clear at the top of the table heading into the final round of matches after Croatia could only draw at home to Finland, who scored a stoppage-time equaliser.

Croatia face a tough last game away to Ukraine, who can still qualify after a Leart Paqarada own goal and a Andriy Yarmolenko effort saw them win 2-0 in Kosovo to join the Croats on 17 points.

Irish Independent

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