Spain secured its place in the 2018 World Cup after easing to a 3-0 Group G win over Albania on Friday.

Julen Lopetegui’s men approached Friday’s contest in Alicante knowing they would qualify for the finals in Russia by bettering Italy’s result against Macedonia.

Given the disparity in quality between the two teams, Spain’s vastly superior goal difference and head-to-head advantage over Italy, the spotlight was always likely to be on Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.

Pique, who has been vocal in his support of a referendum on Catalonia’s attempts to secede from Spain, was whistled at an open training session on Monday.

And the center-back received the same treatment from his first touch at Estadio Jose Rico Perez, but was later brought off predominantly to applause in the second half.

Rodrigo opened the scoring in the 16th minute with a fine close-range effort before Isco’s fourth goal in three Spain matches and Thiago Alcantara’s header made the game safe in the space of 10 minutes.

Italy’s 1-1 draw with Macedonia means Spain go into the final round of fixtures on Monday guaranteed a place in the tournament proper, holding a five-point lead at the top, while Albania’s slim hopes of earning a playoff spot are over.

Source: Sporting News