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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.



13 places

• European qualifying home page

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


 By Tim Vickery

The contrasting fortunes of Brazil's Gabriel Barbosa and Gabriel Jesus

Gabriel Barbosa came off the bench to score his first Serie A goal and seal three points for Inter at Bologna.
Pep Guardiola is unsure if Gabriel Jesus will return for Man City this season, expecting a two or three month recovery.

Less than six months ago, when he prepared for his first game as Brazil coach, Tite had a big decision to make.

He was taking over a team under pressure. Brazil were down in sixth place in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualification table, outside the slots that guaranteed a spot at Russia 2018.

The fixtures ahead looked tricky, starting with a visit to the altitude of Quito to take on Ecuador, who were level on points with leaders Uruguay. In such daunting circumstances, who should take the role of centre-forward,...

 By Tim Vickery

Manchester City have a star in Gabriel Jesus, the kid who keeps getting better

ESPN FC's Paul Mariner recaps Man City's 2-1 victory over Swansea City and the stunning performance of young Gabriel Jesus.
ESPN FC's Paul Mariner recaps Man City's 2-1 victory over Swansea City and the stunning performance of young Gabriel Jesus.

From the moment he came on a substitute against Tottenham two weeks ago, Gabriel Jesus has looked at home in a Manchester City shirt. In that debut, he had just 10 minutes to make an impact: he ran to the left bye-line and put one dangerous ball across the face of the goal, sent a looping header just over the bar and put the ball into the net only to have the goal disallowed for offside.

The secret behind his instant success was all there in that cameo: he had given an example of the speed of...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza backs Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi

Edgardo Bauza has said that Gonzalo Higuain has his backing to be the starting No. 9 for Argentina against Chile in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

"I am very happy to have so many options. But for the moment, I would pick Higuain as my starter and [Atletico Mineiro forward Lucas] Pratto, who has adapted very well and done the job every time he has been called in. But the rest must also know that I am watching them and they have a chance. It should be the incentive for all of them to keep working...

FIFA rejects Bolivia appeal against World Cup match forfeits

Nelson Cabrera Bolivia
Bolivia lost their appeal before FIFA for fielding Nelson Cabrera.

 FIFA has rejected the Bolivian football federation's appeal against forfeiting two World Cup qualifying matches for fielding an ineligible player.

FIFA says its appeal committee ruling confirms Bolivia's 0-0 draw with Chile and 2-0 win over Peru last September are 3-0 losses by default.

Bolivia fielded Paraguay-born defender Nelson Cabrera as a late substitute in both matches when he was not qualified by FIFA rules to represent his adopted country.

Even without the sanctions, Bolivia would...