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Euro 2004 Will Include Spain, the Netherlands

Times Staff Writer

Two of Europe’s giants reasserted their standing Wednesday among the continent’s elite while another that was thought to be an emerging power stumbled badly in qualifying for Euro 2004.

Spain and the Netherlands, accused of underachieving through the years, punched their tickets to next summer’s championship in Portugal with resounding victories.

The Spanish went on the road and dominated Norway, 3-0, at Oslo, winning the two-leg playoff series, 5-1, on aggregate. Fans and media had been critical of the team after last weekend’s less-than-thrilling 2-1 home victory.

This time, in a 23-minute block that encompassed the end of the first half and beginning of the second, Spain took control on goals by Raul Gonzalez, Vicente Rodriguez and Joseba Etxeberria.

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At Amsterdam, the Netherlands left behind the bitter memory of a 1-0 road loss and dominated Scotland in the return leg, 6-0, with an effort that many have long said it had been capable of putting together.

Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, a target of criticism for a lack of production with the national team, scored three goals in a span of 30 minutes.

Wesley Sneijder, 19, got the Dutch going in the 14th minute and also had three assists. Also scoring were Andre Ooijer and Frank de Boer, who came on as a second-half substitute for Ooijer.

Latvia completed its upset of Turkey after a 2-2 tie at Istanbul to eliminate the team that finished third in the 2002 World Cup. Latvia had won the first leg, 1-0.

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Turkey looked as if it would win the day after veteran Hakan Sukur scored in the 64th minute to follow up a first-half goal by Ilhan Manzis for a 2-0 lead.

But Latvia responded two minutes after Sukur’s strike with a goal by Juris Laizans and another, 13 minutes later, by Maris Verpakovskis for the tie. It is the first time the former Soviet republic has qualified for a major championship.

Wales completed its collapse by losing to Russia at Cardiff on a headed goal in the 22nd minute by Vadim Esveev, the player Welsh winger Ryan Giggs had elbowed in the scoreless first leg at Moscow, resulting in a charge of improper conduct by UEFA.

Wales, which once led its group by five points, has not qualified for a major championship since the 1958 World Cup.

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Rounding out the qualifiers was Croatia, which defeated its neighbor, Slovenia, 1-0, on a 61st-minute goal by Dado Prso at Ljubljana, Slovenia. The goal came two minutes after Croatia went down a player when Igor Tudor received his second yellow card. Croatia won, 2-1, on aggregate.

In addition to Wednesday’s winners and host Portugal, the 16-team field features Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland.

Maturana Is Out

Francisco Maturana, who led Colombia to the World Cup in 1990 and 1994, is out again as the country’s coach because the team lost its first three qualifying games -- to Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia -- for Germany 2006.

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On Wednesday, Colombia tied visiting Argentina, 1-1, at Barranquilla, after which Maturana resigned.

World Cup Qualifying

Manchester United’s Diego Forlan scored twice for visiting Uruguay and Real Madrid’s Ronaldo did likewise for host Brazil and the teams tied, 3-3, in South American World Cup qualifying at Curitiba.

In another match, Ecuador and visiting Peru played to a scoreless tie at Quito.

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Ghana advanced to Africa’s second round of qualifying with a 2-0 home victory over Somalia at Kumasi to win, 7-0, on aggregate.

In an Asian qualifying match, Turkmenistan beat visiting Afghanistan, 11-0, to win the first leg at Ashgabat.

Adu Makes Impression

Freddy Adu met the media in New York one day after signing a historic contract with Major League Soccer and the 14-year-old phenom handled the attention with poise and grace.

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“I made this decision because I have faith in MLS,” said Adu, who had been courted by teams from all over the world and will play for D.C. United. “I know they’re going to treat me right.”

Adu clarified that he will graduate from high school in March instead of May, allowing him to be available for the beginning of the MLS season in April.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber was still gushing a day after Adu agreed to the deal, which is for four years with a two-year league option.

“This is one of the most monumental days in the history of soccer in the United States,” Garber said.

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Later in the day, Adu was selected by Coach Thomas Rongen to the U.S. under-20 roster for the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates, replacing Arturo Alvarez, who has a groin injury. The move must be approved by FIFA.

The tournament is Nov. 27-Dec. 19.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.

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