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Football Briefs: Pique announces end of international career

Last updated on: August 11, 2018 21:07 IST

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Gerrard Pique

IMAGE: Gerard Pique says he will not be returning to Spain team. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has confirmed he will not play again for the Spanish national team despite his former Barca coach Luis Enrique being appointed as coach.

Pique declared his intention to quit international football after the 2018 World Cup following a World Cup qualifier against Albania in October 2016, saying he was tired of repeated criticism from supporters and the media, and that he wished 'to be left in peace'.


The outspoken Barcelona-born defender has never enjoyed the same rapport with Spain supporters as his international team mates, and he has often been booed at games due to his repeated jibes at Real Madrid and his support for a referendum on Catalan independence.

Pique, 31, did not confirm his departure immediately after Spain were eliminated by hosts Russia in the last 16 of the World Cup, but he said he had already told Luis Enrique -- who succeeded Julen Lopetegui last month as national team coach -- that he would not be returning to the set-up.

"I spoke to Luis Enrique a few days ago. He called me and I told him the decision was taken a long time ago and that I had thought about it carefully," the defender told a news conference on Saturday ahead of Sunday's Spanish Super Cup game against Sevilla.

"It was a beautiful time with the national team in which I had the chance to win the World Cup and the European Championship. Now I want to focus on Barca," he said. "I have a few years left here and I'm going to enjoy them a lot."

Pique played 102 times for Spain and represented his country at two European Championships and three World Cups, helping his country win their only world crown in 2010 and triumphing at Euro 2012 two years later.

Iniesta scores first goal for Japanese side Kobe

Andres Iniesta

IMAGE: Vissel Kobe's Andres Iniesta of Spain scores his first goal. Photograph: Kyodo/via Reuters

Andres Iniesta scored his first goal for J League side Vissel Kobe in their 2-1 victory over Jubilo Iwata on Saturday.

The great Spanish midfielder, who moved to Japan following an illustrious career with boyhood club Barcelona, scored a sensational goal to open his account, assisted by former Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski.

The German slid the ball through to Iniesta in the penalty area and the 34-year-old displayed all his trademark intelligence to pirouette past an Iwata defender before rounding the goalkeeper to roll the ball into the net.

Iniesta’s goal opened the scoring in the 16th minute and a further goal from forward Kyogo Furuhashi secured the victory.

Kobe moved up to fourth place as they look to close the gap on J League leaders Hiroshima Sanfreece, who beat Nagasaki to maintain an eight-point lead over Tokyo FC in second.

Iniesta's former Spain team mate Fernando Torres failed to open his account for Sagan Tosu, although the struggling team did secure a 1-0 victory over Urawa Red Diamonds in their battle against relegation.

Payet scores twice as Marseille crush Toulouse in Ligue 1 opener

Olympique de Marseille kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Toulouse at the Stade Velodrome on Friday, courtesy a brace from French playmaker Dimitri Payet.

The hosts controlled the match from the early stages as Payet, who scored six goals and made 11 assists in the league last season, pulled the strings at the heart of their midfield.

After failing to test Toulouse goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet with seven attempts on goal, Marseille found the breakthrough when defender Kelvin Amian Adou was judged to have handled by ball from striker Valere Germain's header inside the box.

Referee Ruddy Buquet did not award the penalty initially, only for the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to alert him that the decision needed to be reviewed on the pitch-side monitor.

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