Brazil continued their dominance over England with a 1-0 friendly win on Saturday but 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa's troubles persisted with a 0-0 draw at home to Japan on coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's second debut.
Spain added to Diego Maradona's worries by beating his Argentina side 2-1 thanks to two Xabi Alonso goals, including a late penalty, as the teams already qualified for South Africa began their preparations.
Maradona faces a FIFA disciplinary tribunal in Zurich on Sunday over his unruly behaviour following last month's win in Uruguay which clinched his team's place at the World Cup.
He could receive a ban which would sideline him from part of the tournament.
In other games between qualified teams, Slovakia beat the United States 1-0 while the Denmark-South Korea and Italy-Netherlands matches ended in goalless stalemates.
England last beat Brazil in March 1990 and their injury-weakened team rarely looked like ending that record. The eight meetings since then, including Saturday's in Qatar, have seen four Brazil wins and four draws.
Nilmar headed the only goal two minutes after halftime, then Luis Fabiano missed a penalty and Lucio thundered a shot against the post as Brazil continued to press.
In South Africa, Parreira, who was appointed for the first time in 2007 but quit last year after his wife fell ill, returned to the helm to replace compatriot Joel Santana following a long losing run.
He recalled striker Benni McCarthy for the match in Port Elizabeth but it was to little effect, as Japan enjoyed most of the better moments in a game of few chances.
South Africa's only victory in their last 10 games is a 1-0 win in a hastily-arranged friendly against Madagascar.
"It was a difficult game but it's a beginning," Parreira told reporters. "It was all right but that is not good enough. It would have been good only if we had won the match."
Alonso put European champions Spain ahead after 16 minutes against Argentina in Madrid and converted an 86th minute penalty following a handball by Martin Demichelis to give them the win.
Lionel Messi replied from another penalty just after the hour for Argentina who staggered to South Africa after losing to Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil under Maradona's leadership.
Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsit converted a penalty to give Slovakia a 1-0 win over U.S., his eighth international goal, after a foul on teen-ager Vladimir Weiss.
The U.S. fielded a weakened team because of domestic club commitments.
A classy goal from striker Danko Lazovic in the 57th minute gave qualified Serbia a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in a lively friendly at Windsor Park.
Switzerland, another qualifier, slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against Norway, who missed out on South Africa.