Zlatan Ibrahimovic keeping door open for World Cup return with Sweden

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The Swede had retired from international duty in 2016.

The prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic lining up for Sweden in the upcoming World Cup in Russia still remains a possibility if the star-striker’s words are anything to go by.

The Swede retired from international duty in 2016 after his side’s group-stage exit in the Euros.

The 36-year-old completed his move to Major Soccer League (MLS) outfit LA Galaxy on Friday after his contract with Manchester United was terminated following a season hampered by injuries.

With the country having qualified for the event in Russia courtesy a playoff victory over Italy, Ibrahimovic is keeping the door ajar for his international return.

“The main focus now is the Galaxy, to settle in, to get to know my new team-mates, to get to know the club, to get to know the city,” Ibrahimovic told MLSsoccer.com upon the completion of his move to the Los Angeles franchise.

“When I feel comfortable there, you take the next step. They’re calling me every day, asking how do you feel, what do you want, what are you thinking, how’s the situation?

“But it’s one step at a time. If I feel good and I feel able and I can do what I know I can do, the door will always be open.

“It has nothing to do with the other (Sweden) side, it’s about this side, about me. If I want, I’m there. If I don’t want, I’m not. But it’s one thing at a time.

“I’m hungry to play football. When I do that then we’ll see what happens.”

In 116 appearances for Sweden, Zlatan has scored 62 goals and he remains the country’s record scorer.

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Gareth Southgate delighted to see England enjoying their football as Three Lions overcome Dutch challenge

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Southgate's England beat the Netherlands by a solitary goal.

Gareth Southgate was pleased to see his England team playing with a smile as World Cup preparations continued with a deserved win in the Netherlands.

With just three months until the finals get under way, pressure is starting to build as players look to prove their worth and the Three Lions manager attempts to hone his side.

Eyebrows were raised by some of Southgate’s choices in the penultimate friendly before announcing his squad for Russia, but those selected repaid their manager’s faith with a positive performance in Amsterdam.

Jesse Lingard‘s strike proved the difference as England ran out 1-0 victors against one of the most notable World Cup absentees, giving Southgate a first win in a high-profile friendly at the sixth time of asking.

“Really pleased with the quality of our football,” the England boss said after beating Holland.

“The tactical awareness the players showed. I think Holland changed system three times within the game, and we were looking to see how our players would respond and the identified it each time.

“They managed to make use of the overloads we had in the right areas, so I was pleased.

“I knew we’d got pace and energy in the team, but I was really, really pleased with the composure especially playing through the first two thirds of the pitch.

“At times a bit more quality in the final third was needed, but I think we deserved the win.

“A well-taken goal which was started by our goalkeeper, and what looked a pretty clear penalty (on Marcus Rashford) to me as well.

“For me, lots of individual positives and I think probably the most pleasing thing is the players looked like they enjoyed their football tonight.

Lingard's goal had proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Lingard’s goal had proved to be the difference between the two sides.

“They enjoyed (having) the ball and I was really pleased to see that.”

Jordan Pickford did well in his audition for the No.1 jersey on just his second England appearance, while Raheem Sterling looked sharp in attack despite a lack of cutting edge frustrating England once again.

The Three Lions also reacted well after Joe Gomez was forced after just 10 minutes, with the enforced change not proving a problem for a backline that surprisingly included right-back Kyle Walker in the central trio.

“I think in a back three, we knew the position would suit Joe Gomez when we played him there in November and it as the same for Kyle.

“You need to be able to be comfortable defending in wide areas. Obviously because he is a full-back his use of the ball is really composed.

“And actually as well as his pace being a tremendous asset to the defence, if you watch City play it’s kind of where he ends up now anyway.

“Their left-back projects into midfield, Kyle doesn’t maraud forward like he did at Spurs. He supports from behind and in my view I saw enough in those moments to feel that he could adapt to the position in a three.”

Walker’s understanding with Manchester City team-mate John Stones was a bonus and gives Southgate a welcome boost as he looks to pick a World Cup squad boasting a variety of versatile players.

Holland will not be heading to Russia and new manager Ronald Koeman has his work cut out judging by Friday’s display at the Amsterdam ArenA.

“Defensively we played quite well, but didn’t create many chances,” the former Everton and Southampton boss said. “And we made some mistakes as well.

“And clearly there is a difference in quality between the Netherlands and England.

“You always hope for a match in which you perform better and create more chances (than this).”

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Head coach Joachim Loew identifies areas Germany need to improve on after draw with Spain

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Low sees plenty of areas for the defending world champions to improve on.

Germany head coach Joachim Loew says he knows the areas where the defending champions must improve before the World Cup after drawing 1-1 with Spain on Friday.

Rodrigo Moreno put Spain ahead after just six minutes in Duesseldorf, but hosts Germany levelled when Thomas Mueller hit a superb equaliser in his 90th international.

“There was a good intensity to the game, it was a test in which we were able to learn a lot,” said Loew.

“Both teams have room to improve and you do not always want to show everything so soon before a World Cup.”

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta gave the Germany midfield a masterclass during the first 45 minutes.

The 33-year-old outplayed Germany midfielders Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos by producing countless silky passes at the heart of Spain’s attack.

“You could see that Spain had a lot of combinations who play together regularly and had that automatic understanding,” said Loew.

“We knew that Spain are hard to defend against, you have to almost defend against them man-to-man.

“We wanted to see a few mistakes, so we know which areas we need to work on.

Iniesta had put on a masterclass in midfield for Spain.

Iniesta had put on a masterclass in midfield for Spain.

“Both teams will have more to show by the time the World Cup comes around.”

Spain, who host Argentina on Tuesday in Madrid, are now 17 games unbeaten while Germany’s run is 22 without defeat as they prepare to play Brazil in Berlin, also on Tuesday.

Germany were punished for living dangerously as Spain dominated the early exchanges.

Mats Hummels was at fault for the opening goal, leaving too much space for Iniesta to tuck the ball behind the German defence for Moreno to score.

“At the start, we had real problems, but then we managed to start playing well, which is also a sign of our quality,” said Hummels.

Germany’s Real Madrid midfielder Kroos admitted Spain were the better team early on.

“The first 20 minutes belonged to the Spanish, after that we played well,” said Kroos.

“All in all, it’s a fair result, it was a good game and a good test for us.

“We’re at a good level, but we can still play better, especially in defence where we allowed the Spanish too much room.”

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui took the positives from having frustrated the Germans in their own backyard.

“Overall, I see this match very positively,” said the Spain boss, who praised Thiago Alcantara and Isco for the problems they caused in Germany’s midfield.

“We played against the best of the world champions at (their) home.

“We played with personality, ambition, rigour and confidence in who we are.

“I’m happy with the performances of Thiago and Isco.

“Of course, there are always things to improve.

“The score is fair, we can not claim to have dominated for 90 minutes against the Germans, but we tried to play all our cards and we tried to win the match.

“It was a great game for the spectators, between two teams who really wanted to win.”

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