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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...

 By PA Sport

Gareth Southgate says England squad needs to develop more leaders

Gareth Southgate says his relatively young England squad have plenty of growth ahead.

England manager Gareth Southgate believes things can be done to improve the mental strength of his players.

The Three Lions were heavily criticised in the summer following their shock defeat to Iceland at the European Championship.

Roy Hodgson's players appeared to lack mental toughness and leadership after falling behind to the minnows.

But former under-21 boss Southgate, confirmed as permanent manager a month ago, thinks there are techniques he and his staff can use including getting players more...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Daniele De Rossi did not suffer calf muscle tear in Juventus defeat - Roma

Gab Marcotti says the only thing that could affect Juventus' seven-point lead in Serie A is a deep Champions League run.

Daniele De Rossi did not suffered a calf muscle tear during Roma's defeat to Juventus on Saturday, tests have shown.

There had been fears that defender De Rossi could face a long spell on the sidelines after he was taken off in the 1-0 loss to the Serie A champions.

But a Roma statement said the 33-year-old Italy international had not torn a muscle, adding that a further assessment of his fitness would be carried out at training on Wednesday.

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Giampiero Ventura: Meeting with Mario Balotelli not only factor for Italy return

Alison Bender and Gabriele Marcotti discuss the news that Mario Balotelli has been overlooked for a place in the latest Italy squad.

FLORENCE, Italy -- Italy coach Giampiero Ventura says he still hopes to speak with Mario Balotelli, but any potential call-up won't be decided by a single conversation. 

Balotelli has revived his career in France, scoring eight goals in as many matches for Nice, but he has not played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup.

Ventura said last month he hoped to meet with Balotelli, but now the coach has cautioned that concerns remain about the enigmatic striker.

"I will talk with Balotelli before...