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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

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.

  

EUROPE:

13 places

• European qualifying home page

Qualifying for 2018 sees seven groups of six nations and two groups of five. 

Russia...

Diego Maradona criticism doesn't bother me - Jorge Sampaoli

Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli says there's no truth to the rumours that he is set to become the next Argentina head coach.
Sid Lowe explains how the Argentine FA's aim for Jorge Sampaoli to become head coach has negatively impacted Sevilla.

Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli refused to comment on Wednesday on the harsh assessment of his abilities made by former Argentina coaches Diego Maradona and Carlos Bilardo.

The two said Sampaoli, reported to be the preferred choice of the country's football association to move into the vacant position, is not the "right man" to guide the national team.

Sampaoli announced last week he had an offer to guide Argentina but would only consider it once the La Liga season is over.

When asked about Maradona...

Sevilla's Jorge Sampaoli 'not aware' of meeting with Argentina chiefs

Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli says there's no truth to the rumours that he is set to become the next Argentina head coach.
Sid Lowe explains how the Argentine FA's aim for Jorge Sampaoli to become head coach has negatively impacted Sevilla.

Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli says he is not aware of reports that a meeting took place in Barcelona between his lawyer, Fernando Baredes, and the Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia, over the weekend.

Sampaoli, under contract with Sevilla until June 2018, is reported to be the main candidate to take over the vacant Argentina coaching position following Edgardo Bauza's sacking earlier this month.

TyC Sports has reported that Baredes was seen in Barcelona's Hotel Arts...

Jorge Sampaoli insists potential offers won't distract Sevilla focus

Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli says there's no truth to the rumours that he is set to become the next Argentina head coach.
Sid Lowe explains how the Argentine FA's aim for Jorge Sampaoli to become head coach has negatively impacted Sevilla.

Jorge Sampaoli has said that should Sevilla lose to Valencia on Sunday, it would be because he is a bad coach and not because he is distracted by potential coaching opportunities with Argentina or Arsenal or any other team.

"What upsets me is that any losing streak the team might have is linked to things that are unrelated," Sampaoli said during his prematch news conference. "If Sevilla lose because their rival played better, that is down to the manager's lack of ability, not because of [potential]...

Lionel Messi to testify in appeal against four-match FIFA ban - Tapia

Alejandro Moreno deducts that Argentina would rather press on with Edgardo Bauza than replace him.

FIFA has asked Lionel Messi to testify in the appeal against his four-match international ban next month, the president of Argentina's Football Association (AFA) has said.

Messi was punished for verbally abusing a match official during Argentina's World Cup qualifying game against Chile last month.

He served the first game of his ban in last month's qualifying defeat in Bolivia and will sit out games against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru if the punishment is not overturned.

AFA president Claudio Tapia...