Brazil cruise as World Cup preparations continue

Preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup stepped up a gear on Wednesday, with all 32 participating nations in friendly action.

Neymar took centre stage as his hat-trick helped tournament hosts Brazil to a comfortable 5-0 triumph over South Africa.

The visitors led 2-0 at the break at Soccer City in Johannesburg - Oscar clipping past Ronwen Williams from Hulk's superb pass before Neymar added a second with a driven effort on 40 minutes.

That advantage was extended to three almost immediately after the restart as Neymar expertly lofted over the goalkeeper, before Fernandinho added a fourth with 11 minutes remaining with an outstanding long-range strike.

Neymar then completed his first international treble since September 2012 when he scored a hat-trick against China as Brazil racked up their seventh straight victory.

Reigning champions Spain got one over 2006 winners Italy with a 1-0 victory at Vicente Calderon.

The home side's relentless second-half pressure finally told on 64 minutes, as David Silva's attempted one-two with Andres Iniesta fell kindly for Pedro, who squeezed his shot under Gianluigi Buffon - although the Italy goalkeeper may feel that he could have done better in keeping the shot out.

In another clash between two European heavyweights, France recorded their first win over the Netherlands since 1997 courtesy of goals from Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi.

The result represents a first defeat in 18 matches for the Dutch.

Argentina had a questionable disallowed goal to thank for avoiding defeat in a goalless draw with Romania, and Uruguay were held 1-1 in Austria.

An early Mario Gotze strike was enough to seal a 1-0 victory for Germany over Chile, while Group G rivals Portugal produced a late flurry to triumph 5-1 over Cameroon having been tied at 1-1 at half-time.

Belgium squandered a 2-0 lead as Ivory Coast came from behind to rescue a 2-2 draw, and England were forced to rely on a late Daniel Sturridge strike to get the better of Denmark 1-0.

Arguably the most entertaining fixture of the day came in London, where Australia went from 3-0 up to 4-3 down in the space of 35 second-half minutes against fellow World Cup qualifiers Ecuador.

The fixture saw Tim Cahill net two goals on his former stomping at The Den for the Australians, who also had goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak sent off 12 minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Greece fell at the final hurdle in their bid to go a year unbeaten as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of South Korea, while Josip Drmic and Ivica Olic grabbed two goals apiece as Switzerland and Croatia drew 2-2.

Elsewhere, there were victories for Japan, Russia and Algeria against New Zealand, Armenia and Slovenia respectively, but there were setbacks for Iran, Ghana, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the United States, who each tasted defeat - against Guinea, Montenegro, Egypt and Ukraine.

Ten-man Colombia missed the clinical finishing of Radamel Falcao as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Tunisia in Barcelona - with the South Americans seeing Luis Perea sent off for a second yellow card.