6 Players Who Boosted Their World Cup Hopes Following Latest Internationals
It is easy to look down on friendly internationals. For many fans, not to mention club coaches, they are an unwelcome distraction from the regular season that put their stars at risk of injury.
For national teams themselves, they serve a valuable role in working out the strongest 11 players. This is even more important in a World Cup year, as the last few kinks are ironed out before the most important tournament on the calendar.
Wednesday's internationals gave us several exciting clashes. They also helped several footballers further their cause for Brazil 2014 after impressing midweek.
Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana made a great impact against Denmark. Coming off the bench, the tricky 25-year-old helped the Three Lions to grab a valuable victory and push himself into World Cup contention.
Rejuvenating what had been a fairly turgid England performance until his appearance, Lallana twisted and turned to make space on the left before looping a cross into the area. Daniel Sturridge was there to head home, grabbing the triumph and marking an excellent cameo for the versatile playmaker.
France's 2-0 defeat of the Netherlands was one of the most impressive results of the midweek series. Many of the home team's starters shined during the victory, but Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi stood out more than most.
Solid throughout the match, Matuidi capped his performance with a fantastic goal, which involved him contorting his body into a seemingly impossible position.
Sergio Romero has been heavily criticised in recent months between the Argentina posts. A lack of playing time at Monaco, coupled with a handful of glaring errors while on international duty, had turned the spotlight on the man who has been the undisputed No. 1 since 2009.
Against Romania, though, Romero silenced some of the doubters. In what was an accomplished performance, including two close-range stops, he saved the Albiceleste from what would have been a shocking defeat.
Brazil's storming 5-0 victory over South Africa rightly saw Neymar gain all the plaudits. Scoring his second hat-trick at international level, the Barcelona star further highlighted himself as the man the host nation will be watching at the World Cup.
Further back, the performance of Fernandinho was perhaps even more encouraging. The Manchester City man scored a glorious long-range effort in only his sixth international appearance, and he could be an excellent choice for the Brazil midfield.
The Argentine-born former Liverpool man was one of two high-profile players who made their debut during Spain's clash against Italy.
Despite going down to defeat, Gabriel Paletta will have reason to be pleased with his first Azzurri match.
The central defender was solid against a dynamic Spain frontline. He was strong in the tackle throughout, making several key interventions to limit Diego Costa to just one debut goal.
Italy have talent at the back, but Paletta has thrown his name into the mix and will have a strong claim on a squad place for the World Cup.
After years of wrangling and even two caps for Brazil, Diego Costa made his long-awaited Spain bow against Italy. Those who have watched the Atletico Madrid destroyer over the course of the year will not be surprised that it was a success.
Costa lended a physical presence to the Spain attack, doing the hard work in the area and helping to open space for the likes of Pedro and Iniesta. He could not mark his debut with a goal, but he nevertheless put in a solid 90 minutes that will cement him as a World Cup hopeful.