Slovakia avoided neighbor Czech Republic in yesterday's World Cup playoff draw but must beat powerhouse Spain to reach the soccer showcase for the first time.

In the other two playoffs, the Czechs will face Norway while Turkey, a 2002 World Cup semifinalist, will play Switzerland.

The two-leg playoffs are Nov. 12 and 16. Spain, Switzerland and Norway will have home-field advantage in the first leg.

All six teams finished runners-up in their qualifying groups. The playoff winners will join 11 other European nations in the 32-team field in Germany.

Spain, runner-up to Serbia and Montenegro in its group, beat Slovakia, 4-1 and 2-1, in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France. The first leg will be at Atletico Madrid's Vaccinate Caldron Stadium.

The Switzerland-Turkey game in Bern poses a security challenge for the Swiss because England and Argentina are playing an exhibition game in Geneva the same day.

The Czechs and Slovaks, one country before the split in 1993, could have been paired against each other because they were kept apart in the FIFA seedings.

Slovakia and the Czechs could both make it to the World Cup. Czechoslovakia was runner-up in two World Cups, losing to Italy in 1934 and Brazil in 1962, and won the European Championship in 1976.

In other moves, Guatemalan coach Ramon Maradiaga was fired yesterday after the team failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

-- From News Services