July 31, 2014
Brazil set standard with Neymar hat-trick as France, Germany win
Barcelona forward Neymar was unstoppable for tournament hosts Brazil as they demolished South Africa 5-0 in Johannesburg in the stadium that hosted the 2010 final between Spain and the Netherlands.
Home advantage means Brazil are arguably favourites to win a sixth World Cup this year, but a host of traditional powerhouses will travel to the south American country in June with genuine hopes of gate-crashing the Samba party.
Germany, apart from world and European champions Spain the best bet for a first European winner at a south American World Cup, edged past Chile 1-0 and 1998 winners France, who struggled through qualifying, beat the Netherlands 2-0.
Mario Goetze was on target for Germany in Stuttgart while Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi sealed France's impressive win over the Dutch in Paris.
Spain were taking on Italy in a repeat of the Euro 2012 final in a later kickoff.
With time running out for players to seal their places in World Cup squads, today's friendlies provided a valuable opportunity for coaches to examine their options.
England manager Roy Hodgson was one of them, although his side laboured to a 1-0 win over Denmark, Daniel Sturridge scoring late to ensure they did not lose three friendly matches in a row at Wembley.
World Cup dark horses Belgium drew 2-2 with African qualifiers Ivory Coast, for whom Didier Drogba was on target, while Switzerland and Croatia also shared four goals.
Neymar's Barcelona team mate Lionel Messi has a less impressive night for Argentina in Romania with the match ending in a 0-0 stalemate. Uruguay were also held 1-1 in Austria.
Ukraine and Russia, the two countries involved in a tense military standoff in Crimea, were both in action.
Fabio Capello's Russia beat Armenia 2-0 in Krasnodar and Ukraine, who missed out on qualification, enjoyed a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over the United States in a match moved from Kharkiv to Larnaca in Cyprus.
First-time World Cup finalists Bosnia suffered a jolt as they were beaten 2-0 by Egypt in Innsbruck.
Tim Cahill scored twice to become Australia's all-time top goalscorer, although his side squandered a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 against Ecuador in London.
Asian qualifiers Japan and South Korea enjoyed victories against New Zealand and Greece respectively.