Neymar scored a hat-trick as Brazil routed South Africa 5-0 while Spain edged fellow heavyweights Italy 1-0, but a host of World Cup rivals faltered on Wednesday.
Ninety-nine days out from the World Cup, there were unimpressive 1-0 friendly wins for England and Germany over Denmark and Chile respectively.
Argentina and Colombia were held to draws while fellow finalists Australia, Ghana and the United States were all beaten.
At Soweto, Chelsea’s Oscar opened the scoring for Brazil on 10 minutes, Barcelona ace Neymar struck once in the first half and twice in the second, and Manchester City’s Fernandinho marked his first start with a goal as well.
It was the final warm-up for the World Cup favourites before the May announcement of their 23-man squad.
At Wembley, Daniel Sturridge scored an 82nd-minute header to give England a 1-0 win over Denmark in their last friendly before manager Roy Hodgson names his World Cup squad.
Pedro Rodriguez’s goal was enough to give world and European champions Spain a 1-0 win over Italy in their final game before coach Vicente del Bosque names his squad to defend their world title.
Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa was handed his debut on home soil at Madrid’s Vicente Calderon in what was a rematch of the Euro 2012 final.
However, Costa failed to make much of an impression and it was Spain’s top goalscorer in qualification, Pedro, who made the difference when his shot squirmed under Gianluigi Buffon just after the hour mark.
Portugal were also big winners as Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a brace in a 5-1 win over Cameroon while 1998 champions France also looked good with Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi sealing a 2-0 win over the Netherlands in Paris.
It was a first defeat for 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands in 19 matches.
In Bucharest, Argentina could only draw 0-0 against Romania in a friendly which saw Lionel Messi play the whole of the match despite being physically sick seven minutes in.
Germany were booed off in Stuttgart after failing to impress in a fortunate 1-0 win over fellow World Cup finalists Chile.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side had the Germans under pressure for long spells and created 17 shots to the Germans’ seven.
The corner count of Chile’s 14 to Germany’s four told its own tale and the hosts enjoyed only a brief period of pressure in the first-half which led to Mario Goetze’s 16th-minute winner.
In Barcelona, Colombia drew 1-1 with Tunisia as the South Americans’ lack of a cutting edge in the absence of knee injury victim Radamel Falcao was exposed.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s United States team lost 2-0 to Ukraine in a game switched to Cyprus because of the worrying security situation in the troubled European country.
An impressive France proved too strong for the Netherlands in Paris as first-half goals from Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi sealed a 2-0 win.
Benzema volleyed home the opener just after the half-hour mark and Matuidi added another three minutes before the interval, and the visitors never really looked like coming back into the game as they slumped to a first defeat in 19 matches.
Other World Cup finalists were also handed pre-tournament reality checks with Ghana going down 1-0 at Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who’ll be making their tournament debut, slipping to a 2-0 home loss to Egypt.
Australia gave up a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to Ecuador in London.
Copa America champions Uruguay, who were semi-finalists at the 2010 World Cup, were held 1-1 by Austria.