Defending titleholders Spain and a cluster of former champions coasted to comfortable 2014 World Cup qualifying wins across Europe on Friday.
Spain overtook France at the top of Group I on goal difference on the back of their 4-0 rout of Belarus in Minsk, while, in Dublin, Germany inflicted a record 6-1 home defeat on an injury-ravaged Republic of Ireland.England entertained at Wembley with a 5-0 demolition of San Marino, Italy saw off spirited Armenia and 2018 World Cup hosts Russia added zest to their hopes of making it to Brazil with a 1-0 win over a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal in Moscow.
World and European champions Spain warmed up for their showdown with France on Tuesday in style as Pedro Rodriguez fired a hat-trick in their emphatic victory.
Ireland were playing under the title 'Irish Free State' when Spain won 5-0 in Dublin 71 years ago, but Germany gave Giovanni Trapattoni's men a lesson that will earn its own unfortunate place in the history books.
Despite missing a host of regulars Irish fans will be questioning the continued stewardship of Trapattoni, who insisted he could rebuild his side after the disappointment of their Euro 2012 misadventure where they lost all three games.
At Wembley England were inspired by a double from Wayne Rooney, wearing the captain's armband in place of suspended Steven Gerrard, against minnows San Marino.
Danny Welbeck also contributed a brace with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlan opening his international scoring account.
Italy took outright possession of Group B after their win in Armenia with Bulgaria held to a 1-1 draw by Denmark. Fabio Capello's Russia earned their first ever win over Portugal in the post-Soviet era courtesy of Alexander Kerzhakov's first half goal in Moscow.Holland top Group D on goal difference from Romania, 1-0 winners in Turkey, after their 3-0 defeat of Andorra.
Messi stars for Argentina
Montevideo: Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi scored twice as Argentina defeated Uruguay 3-0 on Friday to remain comfortably on course for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
The victory kept Argentina on top of the South American group while Uruguay remain in the fourth and final automatic qualifying place.
Four Cuban players flee
Toronto: Several players have left the Cuban men's football team that faced Canada in a World Cup qualifying match Friday, Cuban coach Alexander Gonzalez said.
"As with any Cuban sport team that travels around the world, they are all chasing the American dream," Gonzalez said after Cuba lost 3-0.
"And it's difficult to try to keep the team together ... Obviously it's a difficult situation for the team and it's tough for me to talk about it."