World and European champions Spain romped to a 24th straight qualifying win on Friday, although no one in the country was able to see it.
Yet, celebrations were muted in the debt-ridden country after no broadcaster paid to televise the national team's match for the first time in 29 years.
Spain's wasn't the most convincing win of the third round of regional qualifiers, with Germany handing Ireland their worst defeat since 1971, 6-1 at Dublin.
Wayne Rooney celebrated being handed the temporary England captaincy by scoring twice in a routine 5-0 win over San Marino, taking his goal total in international matches to 31, fifth on the country's all-time list.
But Italy were again unconvincing in beating Armenia 3-1, and the Netherlands managed only a comfortable 3-0 win over Andorra, who is 201st in the rankings.
However, Euro 2012 semi-finalists Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, couldn't make the most of their dominance against Russia and lost 1-0 in a match between the top two teams in Group F.
The Portuguese are three points behind Russia, who are unbeaten under new coach Fabio Capello and have three straight wins in qualifying.
Also, Belgium enhanced their burgeoning reputation as a growing force in Europe with a 3-0 win in Serbia, who lost a home World Cup qualifier for the first time in more than 10 years.
Sweden and the Czech Republic needed second-half rallies to avoid draws against weak competition, beating Faroe Islands 2-1 and Malta 3-1, respectively.
The victory for the Swedes left them second in Group C, three points behind Germany ahead of their meeting in Berlin on Tuesday.
The third straight qualifying victory for Germany was launched by Marco Reus' goals in the 32nd and 40th minutes before Mesut Oezil's penalty kick and goals by Miroslav Klose and Toni Kroos (two) turned it into a rout.
Spain warmed up for their Group I match against France, who surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Japan in a friendly on Friday, by stretching their winning run in qualifying that dates back to September 2007.
Pedro set up Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba for the opener before scoring the remaining three goals himself in Minsk, putting Spain ahead of France on goal difference. Both countries have six points and only one team qualifies automatically from each group.
Spain, seeking an unprecedented fourth straight major international tournament trophy, are enjoying a golden era in their footballing history, but that still didn't persuade broadcasters to pay for coverage.
The blackout came after the producer, Sport Five, failed to reach a deal with any Spanish television channel. This was the first time a Spain match was not broadcast at home since 1983, when the team visited Malta.
Rooney was playing for England for the first time since Euro 2012 and was given the captain's role with Steven Gerrard suspended and Frank Lampard sidelined with injury. Rooney marked the occasion by joining Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck in scoring twice at Wembley Stadium.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also scored for the hosts, who moved to the top of Group H.
It wasn't such a good night for Oxlade-Chamberlain's Arsenal teammate, Theo Walcott, who will spend the night in a hospital after colliding with goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini early in the game.
Russia's winner against Portugal came with its only shot on goal in the first half, Alexander Kerzhakov scoring in the sixth minute.
Ronaldo, who has scored six times in his last three Spanish league games for Real Madrid, barely had a sniff in Moscow.
"Maybe we weren't as calm as we usually are," said Portugal coach Paulo Bento, whose team is the only leading European nation not to be atop its group at this stage.
© 2022 Al Sidra Media LLC