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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...

New Zealand on brink of World Cup playoffs after Fiji win

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New Zealand need just a point from their final group game against Fiji to book their place in the Oceania World Cup qualifying playoff.

After picking up four points from their games with Solomon Islands in November, the All Whites knew that the same return from this week's double-header against Fiji would give them an unassailable lead at the top of Group A.

A 2-0 away win in Lautoka on Saturday now means they will be through with a draw in the return fixture in Wellington on Tuesday.

Chris Wood...

Wellington Phoenix demand A-League relook during international breaks

Wellington celebrate Roy Krishna's goal.
The Wellington Phoenix will be without seven players due to the international break when they face the Newcastle Jets.

The Wellington Phoenix have run out of patience with Football Federation Australia (FFA), issuing a vigorous demand for an international window in the A-League.

In a strongly-worded statement, Phoenix general manager David Dome says the integrity of the competition is undermined by the FFA's refusal to budge on the issue.

The problem is highlighted again this Sunday when a Phoenix side missing seven key players -- six All Whites and Fijian Roy Krishna -- host the Newcastle Jets in a key fixture.

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Dome...

Sylvain Graglia scores brace as Tahiti beat Papua New Guinea

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Tahiti moved into pole position in Group B of Oceania World Cup qualifying with a 3-1 win away at Papua New Guinea on Thursday.

PNG, who last year lost to New Zealand on penalties in the final of the OFC Nations Cup, opened the scoring in Port Moresby in first-half injury time through Nigel Dabingyaba.

Sylvain Graglia equalised just before the hour and he turned the game around with his second five minutes from time. Teaonui Tehau put the result beyond doubt with the third in added...

Shane Smeltz urges FFA to reschedule Wellington-Newcastle game

An early red card ensured that the Newcastle Jets couldn't keep up with the Brisbane Roar.

Wellington Phoenix striker Shane Smeltz has called on the FFA to reschedule his side's round 24 clash with Newcastle.

The March 26 fixture in Wellington is scheduled just 24 hours after New Zealand's All Whites play Fiji in a crucial World Cup qualifier in Lautoka.

It also falls just two days before the return leg in the Kiwi capital.

Many of the Phoenix's key players, including Kosta Barbarouses, Andrew Durante, Glen Moss and potentially Smeltz, will be forced to miss the Jets match.

In-form winger...