Brazil fired by Neymar hat-trick as Spain, France, Germany win

Wed Mar 5, 2014 6:38pm EST
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Neymar's hat-trick lit up a powerful Brazil performance as the 32 nations taking part in this year's World Cup tested out their squads on a busy night of friendlies on Wednesday which also brought victories for Spain, Germany and France.

Barcelona forward Neymar was unstoppable for tournament hosts Brazil as they demolished a poor South Africa side 5-0 in the Soweto Soccer City stadium which hosted the 2010 final between Spain and the Netherlands.

It was also a good day for Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo who scored twice in Portugal's 5-1 win over Cameroon, making him his country's all-time leading scorer with 49 goals.

But Neymar's Barcelona team mate Lionel Messi had an off-color night for Argentina in Romania, vomiting on the field early in a dull 0-0 draw in Bucharest.

Home advantage makes Brazil slight favorites to win a sixth World Cup this year, but a host of usual suspects will travel to the south American country with genuine hopes of gate-crashing the Samba party which starts in 99 days.

World and European champions Spain are chief among them and they underlined their pedigree with a 1-0 victory over Italy in a repeat of the Euro 2012 final.

Pedro scored the game's only goal in Atletico Madrid's Calderon Stadium.

Germany, also bidding to become Europe's first winner of a World Cup in south America, edged past Chile 1-0 and 1998 winners France, who struggled through qualifying, beat the Netherlands 2-0.   Continued...

Brazil's Neymar looks on during their international friendly soccer match against South Africa at the First National Bank (FNB) Stadium, also known as Soccer City, Johannesburg March 5 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko