International friendly roundup: Pogba, Mbappe star for France, Spain smashes Argentina

The deadline for all 32 nations to submit provisional 30-man rosters for the 2018 World Cup is May 14. That means, for many of the players with dreams of going to Russia this summer, Tuesday was the last chance to impress.

It was the final matchday of the March FIFA window, and 30 of 32 teams were in action – with the other two, Portugal and Uruguay, having already played their second games of the international break on Monday.

FC Yahoo will have more analysis of all 32 teams over the next two days, but for now, here’s a roundup of a whirlwind day of friendlies:

Spain rips apart Argentina

Everything here must be prefaced with the fact that Lionel Messi didn’t play, and that friendly results don’t matter, and that they especially don’t matter when a team is without it’s best player. With that out of the way …

Argentina was awful on Tuesday, especially in the second half against Spain in Madrid. Defensive holes were gaping. Players lost their heads, and flew into Spanish players with some dreadful tackles. The game got out of hand in more ways than one.

It was 2-1 at halftime, with Diego Costa and Isco putting the hosts in front before Nicolas Otamendi pulled a goal back. After halftime, though, it was a bloodbath. Isco completed his hat trick, and the 6-1 rout, with more than 15 minutes remaining.

Spain was excellent, and looks like the most complete team heading to Russia. Argentina, for its part, was actually decent in the first half without Messi. But it absolutely fell apart in the second.

Pogba, Mbappe star for France in Russia

Paul Pogba curled in a wonderful free kick for France against Russia in a World Cup warmup friendly. (Getty)
Paul Pogba curled in a wonderful free kick for France against Russia in a World Cup warmup friendly. (Getty)

France boss Didier Deschamps made seven changes from the 3-2 defeat to Colombia on Friday. One of those changes was Paul Pogba, who came into midfield in a re-jigged 4-3-3. Pogba scored the goal of the night in a 3-1 France victory:

Kylian Mbappe, on the other hand, was one of four players retained from the 11 against Colombia. He darted onto the end of a Pogba through-ball to open the scoring before halftime, then closed it in style, and might just have locked up his place in Deschamps’ World Cup starting 11 in the process.

Brazil takes down Germany

In what was billed as the game of the FIFA window, Brazil beat Germany 1-0 in a fairly well-played match. Gabriel Jesus got the goal for the Brazilians:

But Germany rested many of its regulars, so it’s difficult to take too much away from the showdown between two World Cup favorites.

England’s defense solid again in Italy draw

The Three Lions had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Italy after the Italians were awarded a late penalty upon video review. But Gareth Southgate’s team continued its relatively impressive form. Jamie Vardy put the home side 1-0 up at Wembley in the first half:

England lost the lead late, but has now gone 627 minutes without conceding a goal from open play – and that’s against Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Germany, Brazil, Holland and Italy. Not bad at all.

Belgium bullies Saudi Arabia

Belgium was the only one of the 32 World Cup participants to play just one friendly in March. And that one friendly was against Saudi Arabia – so not exactly the best preparation for England or the knockout stages.

Still, though, Belgium’s 90 minutes went about as well as one could have hoped. Roberto Martinez started all four of his big-name attacking stars – Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. Lukaku bagged two goals, De Bruyne got one, Michy Batshuayi got one off the bench, and Belgium ran out a 4-0 winner.

Portugal routed by rebuilding Netherlands

A Dutch side whose attacking line was led by, of all people, Ryan Babel had its way with Portugal’s aging defense in a 3-0 victory on Monday. It was mostly a second-string Portuguese team and a weirdly unbalanced midfield around Cristiano Ronaldo, but the result was at least slightly troubling.

Serbia’s preparations on track with win over Nigeria

A 2-1 loss to Morocco on Friday wasn’t exactly the most auspicious result for Serbia – at least not superficially. But several regular starters were left out of the team for the Morocco defeat. They all – or almost all – returned, and the Serbs beat a good Nigeria team 2-0 on an Aleksandar Mitrovic brace:

Poland beats South Korea in thriller

The Poles, on the back of goals from Robert Lewandowski and Kamil Grosicki, were cruising to a 2-0 victory that seemed to accurately reflect the difference in quality between the two teams. But over the final 10 minutes, with Poland having made all six substations, the game descended into chaos. Korea equalized with two goals in three minutes.

But in stoppage time, Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski struck a shot that was absolutely worthy of being the winner:

Other results

Switzerland smashed Panama 6-0.

– On Monday, Uruguay outplayed and beat Wales 1-0 in the final of the China Cup on a goal from Edinson Cavani.

Iran was especially impressive over the opening half-hour, and beat Algeria 2-1.

Colombia, after a stirring win over France four days earlier, was held to a 0-0 draw by Australia.

Tunisia made it two wins in two over World Cup foes by beating Costa Rica 1-0.

Morocco also won its second of the international break, 2-0 over Uzbekistan.

Egypt, with Mohamed Salah resting, lost 1-0 to Greece.

Senegal, this time with a full first-choice team, was held to a 0-0 draw by Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Denmark and Chile also played to a 0-0 stalemate.

Sweden fell 1-0 to Romania.

Japan lost 2-1 to the Ukraine.

In the final two friendlies of the international break on Tuesday night, Iceland takes on Peru at 8 p.m. ET and Mexico plays a weakened Croatia team at 10 p.m.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.