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Scotland get Ruud shock

London: Ruud van Nistelrooy fired a hattrick as The Netherlands crushed Scotlandís dream of a trip to next yearís Euro 2004 finals with a ruthless reminder of where the two countries really stand in Europeís football hierarchy.

After a series of surprise first leg results on Saturday, three others of the five favourites ó Spain, Russia and Croatia ó came through with varying degrees of safety in the second legs.

But the biggest shock came in Istanbul where Latvia produced a major upset by knocking out World Cup semi-finalists Turkey to reach the finals of a major tournament for the first time in their short soccer history.

Spain put their nerves to one side after an unimpressive 2-1 victory over Norway on Saturday to win 3-0 in Oslo for a 5-1 aggregate success.

In Cardiff, Welsh dreams were shattered at the Millennium Stadium as a ruthlessly efficient Russian side booked their place with 1-0 play-off, second leg win.

Croatia, also held to a draw on Saturday, beat Slovenia 1-0 away in the second leg to go through 2-1 on aggregate.

Latvia fought back from 0-2 down to force a 2-2 draw in the last 24 minutes and win the tie 3-2 on aggregate after their shock 1-0 home win in Riga in the first leg.

The Netherlands needed just 14 minutes for Wesley Sneijder to wipe out Scotlandís first leg 1-0 advantage and after that they scored with almost embarrassing ease as Nistelrooy grabbed his hattrick and Andre Ooijer and Frank de Boer added the others in the 6-0 whitewash.

Meanwhile, holders France, Sweden and the Czech Republic are the top seeds along with hosts Portugal. Big guns Italy, Germany, Spain and England are in a second tier of seeds.

(Agencies)

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