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Since 1st March, 1999
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Scotland upset Holland 1-0
- EURO 2004 QUALIFIERS l Latvia take vital lead against Turkey in first-leg play-off

London: Latvia beat World Cup semi-finalists Turkey 1-0, Scotland edged The Netherlands 1-0 and Wales drew 0-0 in Russia in a series of upsets in Saturday’s first leg play-offs for qualification to Euro 2004.

Favourites Croatia were held 1-1 at home by Slovenia in another surprise result for the underdogs, but Spain restored some order with a 2-1 victory at home to Norway.

The five play-off winners will join the other 11 known finalists in the European Championship to be held in Portugal from June 12-July 4 next year. All the second-leg games will take place next Wednesday.

The first goal of the day came in the 200th international match played at Hampden Park, which has just celebrated its 100th anniversary. Winger James McFadden fired the winner before 51,000 delighted home fans as Scotland earned their first competitive win over the Dutch since the 1978 World Cup finals.

The Netherlands had an outstanding team on paper with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Patrick Kluivert up front, supported by Edgar Davids and Andy Van der Meyde in the middle.

But as in 2001, when they were surprisingly dumped out of the World Cup play-offs by Ireland, the Dutch failed to combine effectively as a team and squandered their scoring chances.

Wales, without two of their most influential players after long-term injuries to midfielder Simon Davies and forward Craig Bellamy, faced sustained pressure in Moscow.

But despite being dominated for much of the game, Wales will take their qualifying hopes back to Cardiff, while Russia will be without suspended playmaker Alexander Mostovoi and goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov after both were booked on Saturday.

Despite encouraging results, Scotland and Wales will have their work cut out to join England — who qualified automatically as group winners — to complete a British trio in Portugal.

Latvia joined the surprise packages by beating a Turkey side reduced to 10 men after a 73rd-minute red card for defender Emre Asik.

The Latvians, ranked 69th in the world, secured victory over a side which has struggled since finishing third at the 2002 World Cup. A 29th minute strike by Maris Verpakovskis, his fifth of the qualifying campaign, proved to be the winner.

Though Senol Gunes’ men will still expect to qualify, the year is clearly turning sour after his former group VII leaders were pipped to the top slot by England.

Along with Asik, Turkey will also be without ’keeper Rustu Recber and defender Fatih Akyel next week after yellow cards on Saturday, while Latvia will miss defender Valentins Lobanovs.

Spain, surprisingly forced into the play-offs after finishing second to Greece, suffered an early shock in Valencia when they fell behind to Steffen Iversen’s 14th-minute opener for Norway.

Raul equalised after 21 minutes and Spain’s overwhelming second-half pressure eventually paid off when Henning Berg turned the ball into his own net under pressure from Raul five minutes from time.

Worth the sacrifice

It was just as well for Spain coach Inaki Saez, who had to miss his son’s wedding to be present at the match. “It went well,” Saez said of the wedding. “No one was allowed to watch the football, under orders from the groom’s mother.”

But the team’s failure to claim a more emphatic victory leaves the coach in danger of missing the most important date in his professional diary as well, with a place at next year’s Euro finals far from assured.

Dado Prso gave Croatia a fifth-minute lead in Zagreb. But Ermin Siljak levelled for Slovenia.

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