Spain thrash Croatia 6-0 in UEFA Nations League

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Spain celebrate against Croatia

World Cup runners-up Croatia were thrashed 6-0 by Spain in their extraordinary UEFA Nations League opener in Elche.

The hosts were 5-0 up inside an hour against a strong Croatian line-up which included the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

Saul Niguez opened the scoring in the League A clash with a powerful 24th-minute header before Marco Asensio blasted two thunderous strikes in the space of as many minutes – the second deflecting home off Croatia goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic.

Rodrigo added Spain’s fourth goal four minutes into the second half and Sergio Ramos evaded his marker to head home the fifth in the 56th minute.

With Croatia showing no appetite for the fight, Isco cleverly dispatched his side’s sixth goal and Rodrigo had late chances to make the evening even more embarrassing for the Croatians.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium cruised to a 3-0 win over Iceland in Reykjavik.

Under new coach Erik Hamren, the home side provided sterner resistance than they showed three days ago in a 6-0 defeat to Switzerland in St Gallen.

It took Roberto Martinez’s men half an hour to break the deadlock and when the opener came it was through an Eden Hazard penalty.

Lukaku doubled Belgium’s advantage within two minutes and the Manchester United star completed a comfortable win when he converted a pass from Dries Mertens nine minutes from time.

In League B, Edin Dzeko grabbed the only goal of the game in the 78th minute as Bosnia overcame Austria 1-0 in Zenica.

In League C, Hungary edged a 2-1 win over Greece in Budapest. Roland Sallai’s 15th-minute effort was quickly cancelled out by Kostas Manolas for the visitors.

But a 42nd-minute effort from Laszlo Kleinheisler proved enough for the Hungarians to bounce back from Saturday’s opening 1-0 defeat in Finland.

The Finns maintained their promising start to the competition as Teemu Pukki’s 12th-minute effort proved decisive in a 1-0 victory over Estonia in Turku.

In League D, Luxembourg eased to a 3-0 win in San Marino, while Moldova and Belarus drew 0-0.

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Watch: Roberto Mancini believes Italy will be better after defeat to Portugal

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After Italy fell to Portugal 1-0 in the Nations League on Monday, boss Roberto Mancini expressed confidence that his side will only improve.

“Lots of things can change in one month,” Mancini said. “My players will be in a better condition. It will be important for us.”

See what else Mancini had to say in the video below.

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Passion of Man United icon Roy Keane still important for Ireland, claims Martin O'Neill

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Martin O’Neill has insisted he still wants the passion Roy Keane used to drive Manchester United to the pinnacle of club football within his Republic of Ireland set-up.

O’Neill found himself having to defend his “brilliant” assistant manager as they prepared for Tuesday’s friendly in Poland after an alleged foul-mouthed rant from the former United skipper.

Audio emerged on social media supposedly of defender Stephen Ward outlining a version of Keane’s training ground altercation with the pair during the summer.

In it, Ward claims that Keane called Cardiff midfielder Arter, who is on loan from Bournemouth, a “p****” and a “c***”.

The manager admitted last week that Arter’s decision to make himself unavailable for Ireland could have been down to the row, but disputed the detail of the account provided by Ward – who was not there at the time.

Former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson famously dispensed with his inspirational captain after a brutally frank interview with the club’s own television channel, but asked if he fears he may have to do the same at some point, O’Neill was defiant.

He said: “You were talking about Roy Keane there – this was after Roy Keane had coerced that top- quality team to win seven championships or something like that, in a 10-year period.

“Roy Keane was the driving force of that team. He had great, great players, the Welsh manager [Ryan Giggs] beside him, David Beckham, an iconic figure in the game, a world-class goalkeeper [Peter Schmeichel] and top-class players who could have played anywhere in the world.

“He drove them on and they have all admitted that. He was looking for exacting standards and that’s exactly what I want, exacting standards whatever way they are mentioned to people.

“If people are not up to them, not necessarily in terms of ability all the time, then I do think the players or other people have to have a look at them.

“That’s not to say that every utterance that myself or Roy Keane makes is absolutely and utterly correct.”

O’Neill revealed he had spoken to Ward, who apologised for the leak, and dismissed suggestions it could end his international career.

But asked if he had sympathy for the Burnley full-back, who did not witness the row and has withdrawn from the current squad with a foot injury, he replied: “Today… probably not. Tomorrow… probably not also.

“He has been betrayed by some of his friends, who he has known for a long, long time. That will be a disappointment for him.”

Meanwhile, the Ireland boss also suggested Arter, who he admitted may have made himself unavailable for this month’s games because of his altercation with Keane, and his number two could yet reconcile their differences.

O’Neill said: “I think there might be a bit of a reconciliation between Roy and Harry. Certainly Roy is up for that.”

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