Goals and lessons aplenty
Of the 15 teams gearing up for UEFA EURO 2008 that were in action on Wednesday, eight tasted defeat - although six of those lost to fellow participants.
World champions Italy finished on the winning side in one of those encounters, beating Portugal 3-1 to confirm their good health, and European kings Greece did likewise as they saw off Finland 2-1. There was less to be enthusiastic about for the two co-hosts, however, as Austria suffered a heavy 3-0 reverse at home to German, and Switzerland lost out by the odd goal in three away to England.
With half their team missing due to injury or voluntary withdrawals, the Azzurri gave an awesome demonstration into the richness of their resources to overcome Portugal 3-1 in Zurich. Luca Toni, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Quagliarella turned superiority into goals to punish a Portuguese line-up struggling to click, and only Ricardo Quaresma was able to salvage some honour for Luiz Felipe Scolari's men.
If Italy's performance was impressively dominant, Greece lit up their meeting with Finland through pure force of character. Trailing to Jari Litmanen's goal shortly after the hour mark, the EURO 2004 winners took just five minutes to turn things around. Angelos Charisteas and Costas Katsouranis both found the back of the net to send a message that the Greeks intend to mount a stern defence of their title later this year.
Spain solid, Austria worried
One of the evening's other marquis matches took place in Malaga, where hosts Spain took their unbeaten run to 13 consecutive outings thanks to a 1-0 success over France. Joan Capdevila fired in the only goal with ten minutes remaining, and it was enough to hand Spain the victory as France substitute Karim Benzema headed against the crossbar with practically his first touch in added time.
For their part, Germany looked ineffective for a half against EURO 2008 group-phase rivals Austria, but managed to step it up a few gears when Michael Ballack began dictating proceedings after the break. Thomas Hitzlsperger, Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez struck an effort apiece to complete a 3-0 triumph that adds to growing Austrian concerns. With four months to go before co-hosting the tournament, they boast just one win in their last 13 internationals and look no closer to finding any solutions.
The finest performance of all belonged to the Netherlands, who collected an excellent win away to Croatia, whose young team are being touted as genuine outsiders for the continental prize. Johnny Heitinga, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Jan Vennegor of Hesselink shared the goals to give coach Marco van Basten something to smile about again following a lacklustre qualifying campaign.
Winning start for Capello
There will be questions raised in the Czech Republic after the national side suffered a worrying 2-0 loss to Poland, in which Wojciech Lobodzinski and Mariusz Lewandow got their names on the scoresheet.
Romania shared the same fate, meanwhile, going down 1-0 in Israel after being reduced to ten men in minute 23. Omer Golan grabbed the winner for the EURO 2008 absentees. Elsewhere, Turkey and Sweden played out a poor 0-0 draw that provided as many lessons as it did goals.
Fabio Capello will certainly have learnt plenty, on the other hand, after his England side worked hard to defeat a fearless Switzerland team 2-1. Jermaine Jenas and Shaun Wright-Phillips both struck during the Italian's first evening in the English dugout, but the solid Swiss emerged with much credit and will be a tough side to beat this summer.
Lastly, Brazil celebrated a 1-0 victory over Ireland courtesy of a classy strike from Robinho.