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World Cup qualifying - how it works

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The long road home for Sydney Leroux

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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

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. FIFA has yet to ratify the final 2 places which for recent World Cups have been filled via intercontinental playoffs, to which four confederations are allocated 0.5 places.

EUROPE:...

Arsenal dominate Aston Villa to defend their FA Cup trophy

Aston Villa were no match for Arsenal at Wembley as the Gunners successfully defended their FA Cup title.

LONDON -- Three observations from Arsenal's 4-0 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. 

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1. Arsenal overwhelm Aston Villa

Now Arsenal are out on their own in the history books. They have won football's oldest honour, the FA Cup trophy, more often than anyone else -- their 12th FA Cup means they have overtaken Manchester United in the all-time standings. It was also Arsene Wenger's sixth, and no manager has tasted glory more often in the competition's 144-year existence.

But...

 By Tim Vickery

Guarani fairy tale continues after surviving Racing gut check

After taking down Racing, Paraguay's Guarani will now face Argentine giants River Plate in the Copa Libertadores semifinals.
After taking down Racing, Paraguay's Guarani will now face Argentine giants River Plate in the Copa Libertadores semifinals.

As the FIFA scandal rolls on, the mind-boggling sums alleged to have changed hands in bribes might be seen as a perverse tribute to the power of the game. The heart of the matter appears to lie in the transaction of TV rights and marketing. If companies can afford to pay out on the level stated and still make a profit, it is surely an indication that the product has a huge appeal.

Last Thursday night gave a hint as to why that might be the case. The final place was being filled in the semifinals...

Lozano, Gutierrez among Mexico's five to watch at U20 World Cup

In their last visit to the Estadio Azteca, Pachuca stunned Club America with a late goal from Hirving Lozano. The Tuzos will be looking for the same result this weekend in Mexico City.
Hirving Lozano will be one of the standouts for Mexico at the U20 World Cup and beyond.

After winning the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in January, Mexico's youth squad will be heading into this year's U20 World Cup with high expectations.

Although El Tri has never won the tournament, Mexico appears likely to succeed with the impressive list of names that are on the current roster -- which may lead to some problems for Mexico manager Sergio Almaguer.

Due to their absence in January's CONCACAF tournament, Atletico Madrid's Diego Gama, Porto's Raul Gudino and Queretaro's Orbelin...

 By Kelvin Leong

SEA Games: Young Lions' natural-born killers to lead gold assault

Faris and Sahil must rise to the challenge if Singapore are to win their first ever gold medal. Photo caption: FAS

Every two years, Singapore football fans start the heated debate of when they can end their football gold medal drought at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Legends like Fandi Ahmad, Malek Awab, Razali Saad and Indra Sahdan have all tried yet failed.

From Monday, the Singapore U23 team, coached by Aide Iskandar, will be hoping to fulfill an elusive dream that has evaded the Lion City since the event's inception in 1959 when it was known as the South East Asian Peninsula Games.

Aide led the team to...