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4 teams win World Cup playoff matches

Spain, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Uruguay took a big step toward qualifying for next year's World Cup finals by winning playoff games Saturday.

Spain, which hasn't lost any of its 17 games under coach Luis Aragones, was the biggest winner, getting three goals from Luis Garcia in a 5-1 rout of Slovakia.

Vladimir Smicer scored the lone goal in the Czech Republic's 1-0 victory over Norway, while the Swiss topped 2002 semifinalist Turkey 2-0 and Uruguay edged Australia 1-0 — all in the first game of two-game playoff series.

Fernando Torres also scored for Spain by converting a penalty, and substitute Fernando Morientes added the fifth goal.

Spain is trying to qualify for the World Cup finals for the eighth straight time.

Although Spain is one of soccer's traditional powerhouses, the team has a poor record in international championships. The Spanish won the 1964 European Championship but have not been past the quarterfinals of the World Cup since 1950.

Slovakia, which is trying to get there for the first time since the breakup of Czechoslovakia, finished the match with 10 men after Marian Had was sent off for protesting. Slovakia coach Dusan Galis was also red carded.

The Czech Republic never has qualified for the World Cup finals, although Czechoslovakia reached the quarterfinals in 1990 — three years before the nation split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Smicer, left unmarked in front of the net, beat goalie Thomas Myhre from 8 yards out. Karel Poborsky set up the goal with a cross from the right side in the game in Oslo, Norway.

"We came here to try to win or at least score and we managed to fulfill both," Smicer said. "Now we have to take a rest and prepare for the second leg."

Philippe Senderos and Valon Behrami scored a goal each for Switzerland. Senderos scored first with a glancing header off a free kick from Ludovic Magnin in the 40th minute, and Behrami added an insurance goal in the 86th minute at the Stade de Suisse.

The Swiss last played in the World Cup finals in 1994. Turkey reached the semifinals three years ago in South Korea and Japan.

Dario Rodriguez scored the lone goal for two-time World Cup champion Uruguay in the 35th minute. Four years ago, Australia won 1-0 at home in the first leg but lost 3-0 in Uruguay.

Five spots remain open for the 32-team showcase in Germany. In the other playoff Saturday, Bahrain and Trinidad and Tobago played to a 1-1 tie. The second legs are Wednesday.

In exhibition games, the United States tied Scotland 1-1; England beat Argentina 3-2; Brazil routed the United Arab Emirates 8-0; Italy topped the Netherlands 3-1; and Germany held France to a 0-0 tie.

At Glasgow, Scotland, the Americans tested young players and tied Scotland behind a ninth-minute penalty kick by Josh Wolff in the Americans' final game of 2005. Scotland's Andy Webster scored on a 37th-minute header. The Americans, who will be appearing in a fifth straight World Cup, finished 2005 with a 13-3-4 record.

At Geneva, Michael Owen scored both goals late for England — tying the score in the 86th minute and then jumping to meet Joe Cole's cross for the winner in the second minute of injury time.

At Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, five-time World Cup champion Brazil scored seven goals in the second half. Substitutes Juninho and Fred each scored twice. Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira coached UAE from 1984-88 and returned to lead the nation to its first World Cup in 1990.

At Amsterdam, Netherlands, Alberto Gilardino and Luca Toni scored a goal each for the visitors, while Netherlands defender Ron Vlaar scored an own-goal. Ryan Babel scored for the Netherlands.

In other exhibition games, it was: South Korea 2, Sweden 2; Bulgaria 6, Georgia 2; Finland 2, Estonia 2; Belarus 3, Latvia 1; Senegal 3, South Africa 2; Macedonia 2, Liechtenstein 1; and Ivory Coast 2, Romania 1; Portugal 2, Croatia 0.

The 27 teams already set for the World Cup are: Croatia, France, England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia-Montenegro, Sweden and Ukraine from Europe; Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay from South America; Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Tunisia from Africa; Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea from Asia; and Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States from the group representing North and Central America and the Caribbean.