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Spain, Czech Republic begin on the right foot

Spain, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Uruguay took big steps toward nailing down the last berths in next year's World Cup finals by winning playoff games yesterday.

Spain, which hasn't lost any of its 17 games under coach Luis Aragones and is bidding for its eighth straight trip to the finals, was the biggest winner, getting three goals from Luis Garcia in a 5-1 rout of Slovakia in Madrid.

Vladimir Smicer netted the decisive goal in the Czech Republic's 1-0 victory over Norway in Oslo, while the Swiss topped 2002 semifinalist Turkey, 2-0, in Bern, Switzerland, and Uruguay edged Australia, 1-0, in Montevideo, Uruguay. In the fifth match, Bahrain tied Trinidad and Tobago, 1-1, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

The two-game, total-goal series for the final five spots conclude Wednesday.

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

The Czech Republic got a lift when 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.

Philippe Senderos and Valon Behrami had Switzerland's goals. Senderos netted a glancing header off a free kick in the 40th minute, and Behrami added an insurance goal in the 86th minute.

Dario Rodriguez scored the lone goal for Uruguay in the 35th minute.

Bahrain's Husein Salman scored in the 72d minute, but Christopher Birchall brought Trinidad even five minutes later.

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