Red Devils wrap up Fred deal

Manchester United have completed the signing of Fred on a five-year contract from Shakhtar Donetsk, after the midfielder passed his medical this week.

Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho has moved quickly to replace retired captain Michael Carrick, who has joined his coaching staff at Old Trafford.

United revealed on June 5 they had agreed a deal with the Ukrainian Premier League champions as Fred prepared for the 2018 World Cup with Brazil.

The 25-year-old arrives in England after five successful seasons with the Miners, where he won 10 trophies including two domestic doubles.

"This is the biggest club in the world and I am delighted to be a part of this amazing team," Fred told the club's official website.

"To work with Jose Mourinho, who has won so many trophies in his time as a coach, is an opportunity not to be missed. I cannot wait to get started and to meet my new team-mates.

"I would like to thank everyone at Shakhtar Donetsk for everything they have done for me over the past five years.

"This is a very exciting time for me with my focus now fully on the World Cup with Brazil."

Mourinho added: "Fred will complement our other midfielders' qualities, which we need; his creative brain and passing vision will give us another dimension to our game.

"I am very happy he is joining our club and I believe our players know how important he can be in our team."

Denmark and Australia share the spoils

Denmark and Australia played out an exciting 1-1 draw in their 2018 World Cup Group C clash at the Samara Arena on Thursday.

  • Denmark 1 Australia 1
  • Eriksen (7') opens scoring with classy finish
  • VAR used to award spot-kick to Australia
  • Jedinak (38') slots 12th consecutive penalty

Match Summary

Christian Eriksen once again showed his quality with a fantastic volleyed finish early on, but Mile Jedinak was on target yet again from the penalty spot to level matters.

Both teams went at it hammer and tongs after the interval but neither could produce the crucial strike to grab all three points and had to settle for the draw.

Match Report

The Danes wasted little time as they hit the front in the seventh minute with none other than star playmaker Eriksen doing the damage. Nicolai Jorgensen did a terrific job chesting the ball down for Eriksen to run onto, and the Spurs midfielder showed great technique to drill his volley into the roof of the goal.

After going behind, the Socceroos remained restrained in their approach as they dropped deep to defend in a low block and make the final third congested for Denmark. However, it also meant the Danish defenders had ample time to knock the ball around in midfield.

Jorgensen had a chance of his own to double Danish Dynamite's lead in the 24th minute. They created space down the right flank and whipped in a cross that beat the first defender, but Jorgensen failed to direct his header on target.

Before the interval, the Australians were handed a lifeline when a VAR review resulted in a penalty. Mathew Leckie rose high in the box to head the ball goalwards but his attempt was interrupted by the arm of Yussuf Poulsen. Jedinak stepped up to convert from 12 yards out - his 12th consecutive penalty for his country.

They made a bright start to the second half as Leckie opened up the left flank of the Danish defence to allow overlapping runs from Risdon, but the final deliveries lacked quality.

At the other end of the pitch, Denmark were applying the pressure down the centre via Poulsen. He seemed to be fouled on the edge of the box, but the referee waved play on and the Aussies perhaps got away with one.

Australia suffered a blow in the 82nd minute when Tom Rogic went down awkwardly and appeared to injure his shoulder. He was replaced by Jackson Irvine.

The second half was end-to-end football as both sides tried to make the most of their transitions, but the crucial final pass was lacking.

Leckie had a great chance to perhaps snatch a late winner but he just couldn't get enough power on his shot to beat Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and they finished level on 1-1.

The result sees Denmark sit top of Group C with France in second, while Australia are third with one point from their first two games.

Agent: Playing paramount to Bale

Gareth Bale's agent is planning talks with Real Madrid to determine whether the Welsh star features in new head coach Julen Lopetegui's plans.

The 28-year-old winger made just 20 La Liga starts under former manager Zinedine Zidane last season, although injury kept him on the sidelines for much of the first half of 2017/18.

However, Bale made a huge impact for Los Blancos in the UEFA Champions League final last month, when he came off the bench to score a match-winning brace against Liverpool as the Spanish giants secured a record third straight title.

Zidane resigned from his post just a few days after the remarkable feat, and Real have since appointed Lopetegui as the Frenchman's successor.

Jonathan Barnett has indicated that his client needs to be involved far more under the Spaniard, who risks losing Bale if no assurances are given ahead of the new campaign.

"I think we have to have a chat with Real Madrid and see where we're going," Barnett told Sky Sports News.

"He wants a better year than he had last year. He wants to play more, and that's paramount to him.

"I think he's one of the top three or four players on Earth. For somebody like him, he has to play.

"It's not about money. He wants to win the Ballon d'Or and I think he can."

Despite admitting that Bale enjoys life in the Spanish capital, Barnett stated that regular game time is more important to the Wales international.

"I think that goal elevated an interest in him. But we already knew how good he is," the agent added.

"He doesn't need to prove how good he is. It was a magnificent goal and the timing was great too.

"He loves his life in Spain. He has three children, and he's very happy there. But we have to see. He has to play football."

Ronaldo: Three points is all that matters

Cristiano Ronaldo was naturally delighted to be the centre of attention once again as his goal secured a 1-0 win for Portugal while eliminating Morocco from the World Cup.

Fresh from his hat-trick in the 3-3 draw with Spain, the Real Madrid hitman powered home a diving header at Stadion Luzhniki in Moscow on Wednesday for the win.

With Spain also beating Iran 1-0, both the Iberian side's are in pole position to secure their passage to the knockout phase of the global showpiece.

After defeating Morocco, Ronaldo, who has now scored more international goals than any other European player in history, expressed his happiness.

He said: "I'm very happy. The most important (thing) was to win the game. To get the three points. Because if we lost we could be out. So, we knew that Morocco would be trying very hard.

"It was a surprise because at the start they were really going through a lot of moves and they were very strong. And we managed to strike a goal, I managed to strike a goal, to get those three points, so I'm very happy. And it was beautiful to me."

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos has, meanwhile, called on his side to improve as they look to secure their place in the knockout rounds.

"We have to grow. But we did well defensively, I think," he said.

"We played well, but I think we need more than that. We need to do better than that. We need to continue pushing forward and we have to change and get more ball passion for example, of course."

Iran play Portugal in their final Group B match on Monday before Spain take on Morocco.

Nigeria v Iceland

Nigeria have to collect at least a point to keep their World Cup hopes alive when they face Iceland in Group D at the Volgograd Arena on Friday.

2018 FIFA World Cup
22 June 2018
Group D
Kick-off: 17:00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Volgograd Arena

Referee: M. Conger
Assistants: S. Lount, T. Makasini
Fourth official: R. Montero

Previous encounter:

Iceland 3-0 Nigeria (Friendly) 22/08/1981

Iceland goalscorers: A. Svensson (5'), L. Gudmundsson (65'), M. Geirsson (73')

Players to watch:

Using John Obi Mikel as a number 10 has been questioned by many pundits in the game, with even Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho saying he has to be played in a deeper position. The former Chelsea midfielder was largely ineffective in the Super Eagles' defeat to Croatia, and it seems likely he will be dropped into a deeper role against Iceland, where he can influence the play.

Alfred Finnbogason proved to be the hero in Iceland's incredibly brave 1-1 draw with Argentina in their opening match of Group D. He grabbed the vital leveler against the South American giants and proved to be a real menace against their defence. With Nigeria's back-four showing fragility, the Augsburg striker could be in business in south-west Russia.

Team form and manager quotes:

Nigeria have lost five of their last seven matches in all competitions and are facing elimination should they not pick up at least a point against Iceland.

They were comprehensively outplayed by Croatia in their opening encounter at the global showpiece, and there has been questions asked about the formation, team selection and playing style employed by head coach Gernot Rohr.

As such, the German recognises that the defeat to the Blazers was not good enough and collecting all three points against Our Boys is crucial.

He told reporters: "We have to win against Iceland. If we win the next game, all is possible for qualification."

Meanwhile, Iceland came into the competition in uncertain form having lost three games in a row and sharing a 2-2 draw with Ghana.

However, the Nordic island country produced a courageous performance in drawing 1-1 with Argentina in their opening match of the tournament, and should take great confidence from that.

Nonetheless, head coach Heimir Hallgrímsson is under no illusions that reaching the knockout stages is going to come down to the wire.

He said: "This is a must-win game for Nigeria, and that makes it a little bit psychologically different, they have to win. This group is going to be decided in the last minutes, in the last game.

"It's going to be down to some margins, a set-piece, extra-time goal. This is how this group is going to be played."

Team news:

Nigeria are widely expected to ring a number of changes including switching skipper Mikel to a deeper position in midfield. The West Africans reportedly held a crisis meeting after the loss to Croatia, and are said to have made a request for Rohr to play two upfront. In addition, combating Iceland's physicality has also been prioritised.

Iceland are said to have largely a clean bill of health and Hallgrímsson is expected to field the starting line-up that were magnificent as a collective in their opening day draw with Lionel Messi's Argentina.

Komphela ready to deal with pressure at Celtic

New Bloemfontein Celtic coach Steve Komphela says he is used to pressure, although he won't take it for granted at Siwelele Park.

Komphela was appointed to lead Celtic after spending nearly three seasons at Kaizer Chiefs. He failed to win a trophy and left Naturena after a fan riot in the wake of the Nedbank Cup semi-final defeat to Free State Stars in April.

Nonetheless, the 50-year-old, who signed a two-year deal with a 12-month option to renew in the Free State, says he is ready for his latest challenge, but expects the pressure to be unique.

"I don't know if I can handle pressure, only people can tell. But I think I've been in an environment that is extremely testing," the former Free State Stars coach told reporters.

"And one then cannot come to Bloemfontein Celtic thinking that the fact that you've been through a trying and testing environment then it's just spontaneous. No no, it's not like that, environments differ.

"Bloemfontein Celtic has its own unique pressure. I still need to adapt to such pressure, get to be oriented so that I can find a way to navigate.

"But all I can say is that every team, every team in the PSL, the Absa Premiership is just unbelievable, everybody is under pressure... Bloemfontein Celtic is no different.

"Go to teams that have completed low at the bottom and they are still under the pressure of wanting to come back. Teams that just got to the Absa Premiership are under pressure to perform.

"The team that just won the championship is under pressure as well to maintain such success. Even the one in second and third, everybody is under pressure.

"It is just to deal with the pressure and take it more positively, it should not consume us. It is only through pressure that we grow."

Report: Tadic set to leave Saints for Ajax

Southampton midfielder Dusan Tadic is reportedly set to leave the club to join Ajax Amsterdam on a four-year deal for a fee said to be 17.1 million euros.

The Serbia playmaker has been with the Saints since 2014 where he has scored 23 goals in 162 appearances. In addition, the 29-year-old also wracked up an impressive 28 assists during that time period.

According to Holland's De Telegraaf, a deal is said to be in the offing in the near future. The player is being targeted to replace Hakim Ziyech, who is seemingly headed out of the exit door at Ajax.

The club's financial director Jeroen Slop and director of player policy Marc Overmars are in Southampton to put the finishing touches to the deal.

The Serbian will be a big earner with the Eredivisie giants and has been promised a financial incentive should the side qualify to reach the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.

De Godenzonen will also allow the forward to leave to join a bigger club two years into his deal, if any interest is shown.

Tadic is currently testing his wits at the 2018 World Cup in Russia with his country, and featured in The Eagles' 1-0 win over Costa Rica on 17 June in Group E. He is also likely to start once again on Friday against Switzerland.

Doctor Khumalo hails Russia impact at World Cup

Kaizer Chiefs and South African football legend Doctor Khumalo has hinted that Russia may be a contender to win the World Cup after their impressive start to the tournament.

Khumalo, who was in the Bafana Bafana squad which took part in the global showpiece in 1998, feels that the Russians' ability to remain aggressive in attack has been impressive.

Sbornaya thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening game in Group A before also dispatching Egypt 3-1. They are set to play Uruguay on 25 June in a match which will decide who ends on top of the standings.

As such, the ex-Chiefs playmaker and current Baroka technical director believes that the hosts of the competition could be the team to watch in the knockout stages and beyond.

He told Soccer Laduma: "The football showpiece started, with host nation Russia showing Saudi Arabia flames with a 5-0 drubbing.

"But it's really not about being hosts, you only have to look at the professionalism that the Russians displayed. They never stopped going forward and banging in those goals.

"Although they are the hosts, they are amongst the teams expected to exit the World Cup early because of their track record in the tournament.

"Yes, we might say the fact they scored five goals is because they were playing Saudi Arabia, who are not one of the strongest teams, but if that is the perception, then how did they qualify for the World Cup? The mere fact that a team has qualified for the World Cup has to earn them respect."

Pellegrini backs Diop to shine

West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini is looking forward to having Issa Diop at the club and has backed the centre-back to excel in the Premier League.

The 21-year-old joined the Irons from Toulouse for a club record transfer fee of 21.9million pounds this week and Pellegrini is excited to have the talented young defender at the London Stadium.

Diop came through the Toulouse youth system and made 41 appearances for the Ligue 1 outfit across all competitions this past season. He also scored three league goals.

"Issa is a defender with great talent and character. He is only 21, but he has already established himself as a key player over a period of time with Toulouse," Pellegrini told the official West Ham United website.

"We believe he has defensive qualities that will be well suited to the Premier League - pace, power and a sharp concentration - and I also feel he will complement the other central defenders we have.

"We know that many other top clubs in England and Europe were keen to sign him, so it was important that we moved quickly to complete the deal."

The Irons have also added full-back Ryan Fredericks and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to their ranks.

Celtic turn down Gordinho's request for Chiefs return

Bloemfontein Celtic Chief Executive Officer Khumbulani Konco says the club will not allow on-loan Kaizer Chiefs defender Lorenzo Gordinho to return to Amakhosi.

Gordinho was loaned to Celtic during the January transfer window while coach Steve Komphela was still in charge at Naturena.

During his time with Siwelele so far, he managed 14 league starts and scored one goal in 2017/18.

However, with Komphela having since been appointed as the new boss of the Free State-based outfit, it appears the player is keen to return to Chiefs after falling out of favour previously under the 50-year-old.

In addition, the Bafana Bafana international may want to stake his claim for a place in the Glamour Boys squad with a new manager set to be announced in the near future.

Nonetheless, Konco takes the view that the 24-year-old must see out his one-year loan agreement with Celtic.

He told the Sowetan: "He has made a request to return to Chiefs but we have said a firm 'no' and that is not something that will change.

"If he has signed a deal for a 12-month loan with Celtic then he must stick to that contract and see it through.

"You cannot come halfway through and say you have changed your mind.

"He is a part of our first team under Steve until December and that is the end of the matter."

Refurbished Kinoru to host three KPL matches

The recently refurbished Kinoru Stadium in Meru is set to host three Kenyan Premier League matches featuring Thika United and Sofapaka as hosts in July and August.

The first game will see Thika United play a home match against Ulinzi Stars on 1 July after a request to do so was approved by the league.

A club statement read: "Following our partnership with new sponsors we wish to change our match venue against Ulinzi Stars from Thika Stadium to Kinoru Stadium for it will also be our chance to unveil the new sponsors there."

Meanwhile, Sofapaka will also be hosting Ulinzi at the same venue on 5 July, with the encounter being moved from Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

In addition, Batoto ba Mungu will take on Kenyan giants and reigning league champions Gor Mahia at the stadium on 22 August.

This fixture was previously set to be played at the Narok County Stadium in the south-west of the country.

Fixtures at Kinoru:

Thika United v Ulinzi Stars – July 1, 2018

Sofapaka v Ulinzi Stars – July 5, 2018

Sofapaka v Gor Mahia – August 22, 2018

Sorenson: Australia will be a good test for Denmark

Former Denmark goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen wants to see his compatriots show their strength against a physical Australia team on Thursday.

Danish Dynamite, as Denmark are affectionately known, won their opening game of the 2018 World Cup 1-0 against Peru and will be targeting another three points against the Socceroos in their next Group C clash in Samara.

Sorenson believes Denmark's performance against Australia will be a good litmus test of their tournament pedigree and he is eager to see a strong physical display.

"Today will be a good indication [of how far Denmark can go], if they can play more free," he told Omnisport.

"Like how they showed in qualifying and against Ireland in the play-offs and against Poland when they beat them 4-0 in Copenhagen.

"If they do that I can see them being a test for any team, but they need to play better and play faster and muscle up a bit.

"They talked before the Peru game about their physical strength compared to them but I thought Peru came out looking strongest, so that needs to change because Australia are not going to be easy, that's one of their strong sides is being physical and the fight they always come up with."

Should Denmark beat Australia and Peru fail to beat France, the Scandinavians will be through to the knockout phase of the competition for the first time since 2002.

Moses and Ighalo bullish ahead of Iceland clash

Nigeria national team stars Victor Moses and Odion Ighalo both admit that Iceland will be a tough nut to crack, but will battle for the three points on offer.

The Super Eagles, who lost their opening Group D clash at the World Cup 2-0 to Croatia, are set to face the Nordic Island country on Friday at the Volgograd Arena in southwest Russia.

The Icelanders opened their account at the global showpiece with a spirited 1-1 draw with Lionel Messi's Argentina.

As such, Friday's clash is crucial for both sides although should the Nigerians fail to at least pick up a point, it will spell the end of their participation at the tournament.

With that said, Moses is well aware of the tough test facing the Eagles. He told Vanguard: "Obviously Iceland will not be easy. Tactically, Iceland is a very good team, they played very well against Argentina.

"For me, the game with Iceland is going to be more difficult than the game against Argentina."

Meanwhile, Ighalo revealed the players in Gernot Rohr's squad are united ahead of the tie, saying: "The Iceland game will be different from the Croatian one. We want to attack in that game and we want to create chances because only with chances you score goals.

"Our team spirit is very important to us. No matter if we win or lose, we are always united and thinking the same way. We believe in this unity and we believe in our team."

Harare's Harrison welcomes mid-season break

Harare City coach Mark Harrison says he will use the mid-season break in Zimbabwe's Premier Soccer League to give his players a complete rest from the game.

Following last weekend's round of matches, the league has gone on a two-week hiatus with the nation's top-flight only set to resume on 14 July.

In City's last game before the interval, they ended on a high as they defeated Yadah FC 3-0 at the Rufaro Stadium last Sunday.

However, prior to that the Sunshine Boys had picked up just a single point from a possible nine after defeats to Highlanders and Ngezi Platinum, as well as a draw with ZPC Kariba.

As such, Harrison welcomes the time off to recuperate and ensure his players restore their energy levels.

He told Newsday: "It's good to have a break, players can refresh and relax a little bit. We are going to give our boys seven or eight days off to rest, just to freshen up the body, refresh the mind and when they come back, we get back to work again."

Of his side's recent dip in form, the Englishman added: "In my mind and in the players minds, it hasn't been difficult. We went to Ngezi, against a very good team looking for the championship, we got beaten and fair play. We played Highlanders off the park, they only had two chances given to them by two defensive errors.

"We should have won the game three or four nil, but I have no issues with it, it happens in football. And then against Kariba, I think it was a well-deserved point away, so it was never an issue with me or the players because they have been playing great football and I'm happy."

Loftus-Cheek: Leaving Chelsea may be for the best

England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek admits he may have to leave Chelsea to find regular playing time next season, otherwise he will stagnate.

The 22-year-old, who is currently on duty with England at the World Cup in Russia, appeared to be surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge last season and was consequently sent out on loan to Crystal Palace where he made 26 appearances and helped them stave off relegation.

Loftus-Cheek still has three years left on his contract with the Blues but is already considering a move elsewhere to ensure he continues to develop and progress his career.

"That's the key for me next season regarding where I end up. I want to play. I want to play as much as I can," he told the press.

"Even this past season I didn't play as much as I would have liked to because of the injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing.

"I do understand Chelsea is a big club and there is always pressure on managers to win games and trophies.

"We'll see what happens. I'm confident in my ability and that I can do well, wherever it is."

Tabarez: Suarez gives us hope

Oscar Tabarez was full of praise for Luis Suarez following his match-winning goal for Uruguay in the 1-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Uruguay joined 2018 World Cup hosts Russia in the knockout rounds following their second win of the tournament, with both Egypt and Saudi Arabia eliminated.

Suarez was celebrating his 100th international cap with his country and scored the all-important goal in the narrow win.

Speaking after the game, Tabarez says he expected nothing less than the best from his Barcelona hitman following a subdued opening performance in the 1-0 defeat of Egypt where Jose Gimenez netted the only goal.

"Of course we demand a lot more from this type of player", he said.

"I saw Luis today and I can assure that I don't give him any gifts when I praise him. I thought he played a lot better today in this match, especially because he was fighting hard, he was very fit, very physical.

"He always shows his character and with an enormous sense of responsibility. He takes on the pressure and he lives with pressure all the time and that's a very distinctive feature of Luis.

"He has some much potential that he always gives us hope. We must recognise that he's a crucial player to our national team because he shows solidarity on the pitch, he has a sense of responsibility and he has that enormous capacity to score goals."

Green Eagles target Zesco victory

Green Eagles defender Bornface Sunzu believes his side are capable of beating Zambian Super Division leaders Zesco United to qualify for the Barclays Cup.

Currently, the Eagles are in seventh position in the standings and need to be in the top six to be eligible for the tournament, which takes place at the half-way mark of the domestic season.

The Aggrey Chiyangi-coached outfit are on a good run of form which has seen them record four straight wins with their latest being an impressive 2-1 win over fifth-placed Nkana in Choma on Sunday.

If they beat Team Ya Ziko and should results go their way, the outfit from the Southern Province will have the chance to play for the lucrative Barclays trophy.

As such, Sunzu is confident of doing the business against Zesco at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.

He told the Lusaka Times ahead of Friday evening's match: "We can beat Zesco. If we beat Nkana at home what can stop us from beating Zesco? And if we beat them we will play Barclays Cup.

"We want to play Barclays very much. Eagles have never played Barclays Cup before. We want to have a feel of playing in the Barclays Cup."

Queiroz: We can still qualify

Carlos Queiroz says Iran's dream of qualifying for the second round of the World Cup remains alive after their 1-0 loss to Spain.

Queiroz's side shocked Morocco with a 1-0 win in their World Cup opener and were unfortunate to lose to a Diego Costa goal at the Kazan' Arena on Wednesday night.

Despite having a goal ruled out late on against the Spanish, it was the correct decision.

Team Melli now need a result against Portugal in their final Group B game on Monday to force their way into the knockout rounds.

After losing to Spain, Queiroz said: "We showed tremendous fighting spirit against a favourite to win the World Cup.

"There is no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved a better result."

He added: "We came to this World Cup and nobody gave us a chance but we can still qualify for the second round and I think that is something we should applaud.

"We can guarantee that we will keep working for our dreams, and our dream is to qualify for the second round. We know it will be difficult against Portugal but we don't come here expecting easy things."

On the use of Video Assistant Referees, Queiroz concluded: "For me VAR has come in 10 years too late. If we had six more months (without it) maybe we would have had a point - but it is good for the credibility of football."

Neymar: Brazil must do better against Costa Rica

Brazil star Neymar is eager for the Selecao to put in a better performance when they face Costa Rica than they managed against Switzerland in their World Cup opener.

The South Americans flattered to deceive against Switzerland on Sunday as they were held to a 1-1 draw.

Philippe Coutinho curled home a trademark shot from range to put Brazil ahead, but they failed to find a second and conceded just after the break when Steven Zuber hit the back of the net.

Neymar, who was also underwhelming on the day, is well aware of Brazil's shortcomings against Switzerland and is determined to do better when they take on Costa Rica on Friday.

The PSG star suffered a knock to his ankle during the game and missed a training session thereafter, but he appears to be back at full strength again.

Neymar told the Brazilian Football Confederation: "I hope we play a better game than in the debut against Switzerland and we want to win.

"We want to play well. We have seen footage of Costa Rica although the important thing is to play our football."

Brazil are tied for second in Group E, behind leaders Serbia who beat Costa Rica 1-0 in their opening game of the tournament.

Ramos: Spain did well but must still improve

Spain captain Sergio Ramos was pleased to beat Iran in their second clash of the 2018 World Cup and is determined to finish top of Group B.

La Roja kicked off their World Cup campaign with an end-to-end thriller against Portugal, which ended 3-3, and now sit tied at the top of the group with their neighbours after beating Iran 1-0 on Wednesday.

Ramos was satisfied with the victory, which was secured by Diego Costa's second-half strike, but still wants to see the 2010 World Cup champions show improvements across the board.

"They [Iran] went out to waste time, whereas we like to win in a different way," he told the press.

"We leave happy. We've taken another step forward and now we have to try to top our group, it's our objective.

"I still think we can improve in all aspects."

Meanwhile, the Real Madrid defender also took the opportunity to hit back at Argentina legend Maradona, who earlier this week stated that Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin is better than him.

"In Argentina they know that Maradona is light years away from the best Argentine player in history which, for me, is Lionel Messi," the 32-year-old quipped.