Spain sent out a warning to their World Cup rivals as Isco grabbed a hat-trick in a 6-1 thrashing of Argentina, who were missing the injured Lionel Messi, in a friendly on Tuesday.
On what was supposed to be a historic night for Argentina captain Javier Mascherano, who joined Javier Zanetti on 142 caps as his country’s record appearance holder, things quickly turned sour as Diego Costa, Thiago and Iago Aspas also found the net.
It will have made uneasy viewing for coach Jorge Sampaoli and emphasised more than ever how reliant his side are on their talisman Messi, who has been struggling with a muscle problem.
Should the Barcelona forward be missing at any point during this year's finals in Russia, Argentina are likely to struggle judging by their meek surrender in the Spanish capital.
Without Messi on the pitch there was room for someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and Real Madrid's outstanding Isco filled the void.
The diminutive midfielder dictated play from the centre of the pitch throughout as Spain ruthlessly and consistently exploited the high Argentine defensive line.
“I’m not going to discover anything else about how much I like Isco and having him here with us,” Spain coach Julen Lopetegui said.
“We’ve beaten a team with a strong history who got to the final of the last World Cup. Obviously, once we’re there you start from scratch and they had a couple of important absentees but we’re happy – it’s a real match and a deserved win.”
Late Italy penalty takes wind out of England's sails
World Cup-bound England had the wind taken out of their sails as Italy's Lorenzo Insigne scored an 86th-minute penalty, awarded by VAR, to cancel out Jamie Vardy's opener and secure a 1-1 draw in a friendly at Wembley on Tuesday.
The Video Assistant Referee will used at this year's finals in Russia and as an example of things to come it rescued Italy as they gained some crumbs of comfort after a woeful run of form that cost them a place at the tournament.
It was tough on England who, apart from a sloppy opening spell, had looked reasonably assured in what was a high-profile audition for those players still hoping to grab a place in Gareth Southgate's final squad.
Vardy did his chances no harm at all when he thumped home after a quickly-taken free kick by Jesse Lingard in the 26th minute for his seventh England goal.
Burnley's James Tarkowski, handed a debut in a back three, also did little wrong although it was his tackle on substitute Federico Chiesa that allowed Italy a first goal in four games and ended England's run of five clean sheets.
Two of those shutouts were against Germany and Brazil while they also beat the Netherlands 1-0 in Amsterdam on Friday and, although they could not take the scalp of four-times world champions Italy, the England boss was upbeat.
"I feel that we have made positive progression," Southgate, who will name his provisional 33-man squad on May 14, said.
"In terms of the last four games we have played four of the biggest football countries in the world and we have been competitive in every game and our patterns of play have become a lot clearer to everybody."
What is not yet clear is the impact of VAR.
Chiesa's theatrical fall did not initially impress German referee Deniz Aytekin but after the intervention of VAR he pointed to the spot and, with boos ringing around the stadium, Insigne beat Jack Butland with a perfect spot kick.
It was a marginal call as Chiesa appeared to be already off balance when Tarkowski inadvertently trod on his foot.
Brazil beat Germany 1-0 to restore some pride after 2014 fiasco
Brazil edged past world champions Germany 1-0 in their international friendly on Tuesday to snap their opponents' 22-match unbeaten run and exact some measure of revenge for their 2014 World Cup semi-final humiliation.
Gabriel Jesus headed in the winner in the 37th minute as Brazil, beaten just once under coach Tite and missing injured talisman Neymar, beat a second-string German team to restore some pride after their 7-1 loss to the Europeans four years ago.
The Germans were hoping to match their record of 23 games without defeat but they lacked spark and precision, with several key players injured or rested, including Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller.
Germany coach Joachim Loew made seven changes to the team that drew 1-1 against Spain on Friday as they prepare for a World Cup title defence in Russia in June.
"I expected Brazil would play with their best team and with their soul a bit injured they would be fully motivated," Loew told reporters.
"It was not our day today. We made changes to the lineup and you could see it affected the team.
"We made some easy mistakes. There were some young players on the pitch and we were not really that fine-tuned as a team.
"But that is why you have such games, to try things out."
US earn 1-0 win over Paraguay
Bobby Wood converted a penalty kick late in the first half to give the United States a 1-0 win over Paraguay in a friendly in Cary, North Carolina on Tuesday.
The United States, who failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup in Russia, fielded a youthful side but it was the 25-year-old Wood who got the goal, calmly scoring from the spot after Tyler Adams was tripped by Paraguay goalkeeper Gatito Fernandez.
Paraguay, who also missed out on qualification for Russia, improved after the break but were unable to find the equaliser.
Interim US coach Dave Sarachan, who took the reins when Bruce Arena resigned in October, said the match was a good opportunity for some of the squad's younger players to gain some international experience.
Only two of the Americans' starting 11 were over 25.
“The kids have got to start somewhere and this was a good game to get their feet wet,” Sarachan was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
Sarachan singled out 19-year-old Tyler Adams for praise.
“The combination of a good passer and a guy that can run, can be deadly,” Sarachan said. “We talked about breaking Paraguay’s line, and Tyler’s timing on the run to draw the penalty was excellent.”
Lukaku double helps Belgium beat Saudi Arabia 4-0
Romelu Lukaku scored twice to help Belgium to a 4-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in a friendly on Tuesday as coach Roberto Martinez sought to settle the final few places up for grabs in his World Cup squad.
Belgium dominated possession throughout and pierced the Saudi defence twice in each half.
Manchester United striker Lukaku found the bottom corner in the 13th minute after Kevin De Bruyne had seized on a loose Saudi pass.
Eden Hazard then powered through and deftly flicked the ball to Lukaku, who slid it into the same left corner in the 39th minute to double the lead.
Belgium scored twice in little more than a minute in the second half, substitute Michy Batshuayi showing neat footwork to fire in from close range before De Bruyne played a one-two with Lukaku and blasted in from further out.
Belgium coach Martinez said the match would determine his World Cup squad selection in May and Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan was one of those given a chance to make the final cut.
Belgium begin their World Cup campaign against Panama on June 18 and will also face England and Tunisia in Group G.
Mitrovic double gives Serbia 2-0 friendly win over Nigeria
Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a second-half double to earn a 2-0 World Cup warm-up win over Nigeria in a lively encounter in London on Tuesday.
It was a much improved performance by the Serbians after Friday's 2-1 defeat by Morocco, while Nigeria put in a turgid display following a 1-0 win over Poland as the teams continue their preparations for this year's finals in Russia.
Newcastle United's Mitrovic, on loan at promotion-chasing English Championship side Fulham, was unlucky in the early stages after television replays suggested his header which squeezed under keeper Francis Uzoho had crossed the line.
Uzoho was much busier than his Serbia counterpart Vladimir Stojkovic, having parried stinging shots by Mitrovic and Branislav Ivanovic while he also stopped winger Dusan Tadic scoring with an easy chance.
Mitrovic missed another opportunity shortly after the interval before he finally broke the deadlock, superbly turning in a Filip Kostic cross from the left in the 68th minute.
The two combined again 13 minutes later as Tadic released Kostic on the left with neat footwork and the forward squared the ball back for Mitrovic to sidefoot home from 10 metres.
Halftime substitute Odion Ighalo missed Nigeria's solitary chance in the second half when Stojkovic pushed his close-range shot over the bar at Barnet's stadium.
Serbia will face Costa Rica, Switzerland and Brazil in Group E when the World Cup gets underway in June, while Nigeria have been drawn with Croatia, Iceland and Argentina in Group D.
Zielinski's stoppage time stunner gives Poland dramatic win
Piotr Zielinski scored a dramatic stoppage time goal to give Poland a thrilling 3-2 friendly win over fellow World Cup qualifiers South Korea in Chorzow on Tuesday.
Captain Robert Lewandowski ended Poland's scoring drought as he and Kamil Grosicki struck in the first half to give Adam Nawalka's team a 2-0 lead.
Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski's fine header opened the scoring in the 32nd minute and Grosicki doubled the home side's lead with a cool finish just before the interval.
Lewandowski's 52nd international goal was Poland's first since last October as they failed to score in friendly games against Uruguay, Mexico and Nigeria since.
South Korea fought back, though, and scored twice within two minutes through Lee Chang-min and Hwang Hee-chan, with the Polish defence slow to react. However, Zielinski had the final say and won the match with an expertly curled 22-metre shot.
Poland face Colombia, Japan and Senegal in Group H of the World Cup in Russia. South Korea, who have qualified for a ninth successive World Cup finals, have been drawn with defending champions Germany, Mexico and Sweden in Group F.
Ragged Panama given lesson by slick Swiss
World Cup debutants Panama were given a timely footballing lesson by a slick Switzerland side as they were thumped 6-0 in a friendly on Tuesday.
The Swiss, using the game as a dress rehearsal for their World Cup group stage match against Central American side Costa Rica, scored four times in a 17-minute first half period before adding two more in the second half.
Panama, who face England, Belgium and Tunisia in their group at the tournament in Russia, were beaten 1-0 by Denmark in the first match of their European trip last Thursday but found the ruthless Swiss a different proposition.
The Central Americans, who finished above the United States in the CONCACAF qualifiers to reach their first ever World Cup, struggled to get out of their half for the opening 20 minutes and collapsed dramatically after falling behind.
"Our opponents were quicker, more technical and stronger, better than us in every sense," said Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez.
"They played very well and we played very well.
"It's better for this to happen here than at the World Cup but, the truth is, it's still ugly, horrible."
Classy Khazri goal gives Tunisia victory over Costa Rica
Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazri emphasised his potential worth at this year’s World Cup with a classy first-half goal to hand the north Africans a 1-0 win over fellow finalists Costa Rica in a friendly played on the French Riviera on Tuesday.
Khazri, 27, might not have set the Premier League alight with Sunderland last season but he sent a clear message about his match-winning ability to England, as well as Belgium and Panama who will share Group G in Russia in June.
He ran onto a ball played over his head from inside his own half, controlled it and swept past a defender before striking it against goalkeeper Keylor Navas and then getting his foot to the rebound first in the 36th minute for the only goal of the game.
The strike by Khazri, who is on loan at Stade Rennes, earned a second win in five days for Tunisia who beat Iran 1-0 at home on Friday when Costa Rica, who are in Group E with Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland, won by the same score away to Scotland.
Sizzling Rotariu gives Romania 1-0 win over toothless Sweden
Romania substitute Dorin Rotariu scored his first senior international goal to give them a 1-0 win over World Cup-bound Sweden in a friendly on Tuesday.
Lively Rotariu put on a sizzling show of dribbling before giving Sweden keeper Karl-Johan Johnsson no chance with a brilliant left-foot shot in the 57th minute in the southern city of Craiova.
Sweden, who knocked out Italy in a two-legged playoff to book their ticket for the tournament in Russia this year, enjoyed lots of possession but failed to impress, offering little in attack.
The Swedes, who suffered another setback on Saturday when they were beaten 2-1 by Chile at home in another warmup, have been drawn with defending champions Germany, Mexico and South Korea in World Cup Group F.
Romania failed to qualify for the finals for a fifth consecutive time.
The match at the Ion Oblemenko Stadium was interrupted for a few minutes at the end of the first half after a number of fireworks were thrown by Romania fans.
Peru beat Iceland 3-1 in friendly
Peru scored their second victory over a European side in less than a week on Tuesday after a strong second-half performance helped them to a 3-1 win over Iceland in a friendly match in New Jersey.
The game was only two minutes old when poor defending from Iceland allowed Renato Tapia a free header from six yards out.
Iceland equalised midway through the first half when Jon Guoni Fjoluson headed home a corner from close range.
Peru took the lead again 12 minutes into the second half when Raul Ruidiaz slotted home from a tight angle before Jefferson Farfan got the third when his shot from 12 yards out took a deflection that wrongfooted the goalkeeper and trundled home.
The victory came four days after Peru beat Croatia 2-0 in Miami.
Peru are heading to their first World Cup in 36 years this summer and will face Denmark, France and Australia in Group C.
Iceland, who are preparing for their first appearance at the finals, begin their Group D campaign against Argentina on June 16 before playing Nigeria and Croatia.
Australia coach encouraged by goalless draw with Colombia
Australia coach Bert van Marwijk was encouraged by the progress shown by his World Cup-bound side after they held Colombia to a goalless draw in London on Tuesday only a few days after being thrashed by Norway.
The Socceroos rode their luck at times at Craven Cottage against a Colombia side that beat France 3-2 in Paris last week and goalkeeper Danny Vukovic had to save a Miguel Borja penalty to keep a clean sheet on his international debut.
Dutchman van Marwijk was pleased that his first few training sessions were already bearing fruit with a distinct improvement over his first match in charge last Friday, when Australia were beaten 4-1 in Oslo.
"Colombia are one of the best teams in the world, we saw that last week. When you win in France you are a very good team," he said.
"Today we had a very good plan and we could see the way we want to play. We played very well in the first half. In the second half it was more difficult because of the qualities of Colombia but we showed good character to get the 0-0."
One of the first changes Van Marwijk made was to switch from three at the back, the system controversially instituted by his predecessor Ange Postecoglou, to a four-man defence.
Australia looked more compact and much better organised than they were in Norway, with the central defenders holding a higher line and the midfielders offering more support.
"You could see that the players can see how we want to play and if you ask them after the game, they like to play in that way," he added.
"The best combination is that you play in a way that fits the players, and also the coach.
"It must become better and better but this is a good start."
Australian govt says not planning to boycott World Cup
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop clarified some earlier comments on Wednesday by saying the country had no plans to boycott the soccer World Cup in response to a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.
After Australia expelled two Russian diplomats on Tuesday, Bishop said that boycotting the June 14-July 15 tournament in Russia was among "a range" of other options available to the government.
On Wednesday, though, she cleared up what she thought had been a misunderstanding over her comments.
"The Australian government is not considering a boycott of the World Cup," she told reporters in Canberra.
"When I was asked about it yesterday I was referring to the fact that Britain, for example, pursued an option of announcing that the Royal Family would not be attending the World Cup, but Australia is not considering a boycott."
The British government has blamed Moscow for the attack on the former Russian intelligence officer in Salisbury, prompting a series of reprisals against the Kremlin from governments across the Western world.
The United States said on Monday it would expel 60 Russian diplomats. In total, 100 diplomats are being removed, the biggest Western expulsion since the height of the Cold War.
Bishop said she thought Australia had taken "appropriate action" with the removal of the two Russian diplomats.
"This sends a very powerful message that Russia's actions and the responsibility that Russia must take this use of a chemical nerve agent in London will not be tolerated," she said.
Football Federation Australia said on Tuesday that, as far as it was concerned, their Socceroos team would be in Russia in June."As things stand, all qualifying teams, including the England team, will be taking part in this FIFA event and that continues to be our intention," read an FFA statement.
Kremlin says official delegations' absence unlikely to affect World Cup
A Kremlin spokesman said on Wednesday that a decision by some Western countries not to send delegations to this summer's soccer World Cup was unlikely to affect the competition.
Russia is hosting the world's most prestigious soccer tournament from June 14 to July 15.