Sport Football Brazil impress as World Cup rivals labour

Brazil impress as World Cup rivals labour

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Neymar scored a hat-trick as Brazil routed South Africa 5-0 on Wednesday but a host of World Cup rivals were facing searching questions 99 days out from the showpiece event after a night of below-par performances.

World Cup hosts Brazil were too hot for an outclassed South Africa at Soweto’s Soccer City, the venue for the 2010 final, with Neymar hitting a hat-trick.

There were unimpressive 1-0 wins for England and Germany over Denmark and Chile respectively while Argentina and Colombia were held and fellow finalists Australia, Ghana and the United States were all beaten.

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 2014 World Cup title favourites before the May announcement of the 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.

Hodgson gave a debut to Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, but it took the second-half introductions of Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck to give England a spark.

Lallana teed up the winning goal for Sturridge, whose back-post header ended a 264-minute goal drought for England at Wembley Stadium after November’s friendly defeats by Chile and Germany.

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.

Argentinian coach Alex Sabella started with pretty much his first choice side with Messi in the playmaking role while Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were the strikeforce and other regulars such as Angel di Maria, Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta also featured.

But the two-time world champions toiled to create any serious openings.

Germany were booed off in Stuttgart after failing to impress in a fortunate 1-0 win over fellow World Cup contestants 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 participants 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.