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2018 World Cup qualifying - how it works

The qualifying process for the 2018 World Cup began on March 12, 2015 with preliminary ties between the 12 lowest-ranked nations in Asia.

Chiquito Do Carmo of Timor-Leste had the honour of scoring the very first goal on the road to Russia in a 4-1 victory at home to Mongolia.

There are 31 places up for grabs, joining hosts Russia.

The draw for the main sections of qualifying takes place on Saturday, July 25, 2015.

EUROPE: 13 places

• European qualifying home page

Qualifying for 2018...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

World Cup qualifying draw: Spain land Italy in group stages

ESPN FC's Alexis Nunes and Alejandro Moreno break down the CONCACAF and UEFA World Cup qualifying draws.
ESPN FC's Mark Donaldson and Steve Nicol break down Scotland's World Cup qualifying group, where they'll meet an old frenemy in England.
Sepp Blatter has arrived in Russia ahead of the preliminary 2018 World Cup draw.
The U.N.'s Special Adviser for Sport believes Blatter should receive recognition for the positive aspects of his tenure.

The draw for the preliminary stages of the 2018 World Cup has been taken with France taking on Netherlands, Spain and Italy drawn in the same group and England finding themselves placed with Scotland.

Germany will start defending their World Cup title in a six-team UEFA pool where the Czech Republic seems the biggest barrier to advancing as group winners.

"I'm happy that we won't play against France or Italy," said former German international and current team official Oliver Bierhoff.

Italy, the...

Stephen Keshi to see out contract as Nigeria coach, says NFF

Stephen Keshi signed a new contract in April.

ABUJA, Nigeria -- The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said it has been assured that coach Stephen Keshi will honour his two-year contract despite being named as a candidate to take charge of African champion Ivory Coast.

The NFF said Keshi, who signed a new contract in April, is "very happy" with his job in Nigeria.

Keshi was on a list of more than 50 candidates published recently by the Ivorian federation to take over from Frenchman Herve Renard.

But in a weekend statement, the NFF said Keshi's...

Confederation of African Football bans Nigerian goalkeeper, hands out fines

CAIRO -- A Nigerian goalkeeper was banned for a year for spitting at an assistant referee and clubs were handed fines totaling $85,000 in disciplinary decisions announced by the Confederation of African Football on Tuesday.

Goalkeeper Tejiri Rhiogbere was given the 12-month ban from all African competitions following CAF's disciplinary committee meeting on Sunday. CAF said it would also forward Rhiogbere's case to FIFA to possibly make his ban worldwide.

The spitting incident happened in Nigerian...

CAF clears Ebola-free Liberia to host football games again

CAIRO -- The Confederation of African Football has cleared Liberia to host international football games again after it was declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization.

It means Liberia will be able to play at home in 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifying, which begins next month, and 2018 World Cup qualifying later in the year.

However, CAF's announcement on Friday also noted that Guinea and Sierra Leone, the two other West African nations most-affected by the Ebola outbreak, cannot...