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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

World Cup qualifying draw: Spain land Italy in group stages

ESPN FC's Alexis Nunes and Alejandro Moreno break down the CONCACAF and UEFA World Cup qualifying draws.
ESPN FC's Mark Donaldson and Steve Nicol break down Scotland's World Cup qualifying group, where they'll meet an old frenemy in England.
Sepp Blatter has arrived in Russia ahead of the preliminary 2018 World Cup draw.
The U.N.'s Special Adviser for Sport believes Blatter should receive recognition for the positive aspects of his tenure.

The draw for the preliminary stages of the 2018 World Cup has been taken with France taking on Netherlands, Spain and Italy drawn in the same group and England finding themselves placed with Scotland.

Germany will start defending their World Cup title in a six-team UEFA pool where the Czech Republic seems the biggest barrier to advancing as group winners.

"I'm happy that we won't play against France or Italy," said former German international and current team official Oliver Bierhoff.

Italy, the...

 By Ben Gladwell

UEFA docks Croatia one point in Euro qualifying for swastika on pitch

A swastika on the pitch has cost Croatia the point they earned in the draw against Italy.

Italy have moved to within a point of Euro 2016 qualifying Group H leaders Croatia on Thursday as their rivals were deducted a point by UEFA.

UEFA announced that the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) had been docked one point because of the racist behaviour of their fans during the 1-1 draw with Italy in Split last month. Television pictures of the game showed how a swastika had been drawn on the pitch.

"The HNS has also been ordered to play its next two home matches in UEFA competition behind...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Alcides Ghiggia, hero of Uruguay's Maracanazo upset, dies at 88

Alcides Ghiggia died on the 65th anniversary of his World Cup-winning goal against Brazil at Maracana.

Alcides Ghiggia, the hero of Uruguay's legendary Maracanazo upset of Brazil in the final game of the 1950 World Cup, has died at age 88.

Ghiggia, who scored the second goal of La Celeste's shock 2-1 victory over heavily favoured Brazil in front of nearly 200,000 spectators at Rio de Janeiro's famed Maracana Stadium, passed away from a heart attack on the 65th anniversary of the triumph.

He was the last surviving Uruguayan player from the match. When he turned 80 he was honored by the Uruguayan congress,...

 By Ian Holyman

PSG confirm Salvatore Sirigu can leave if Kevin Trapp deal threatens Italy role

Kevin Trapp sets his sights on silverware after moving to French domestic treble winners Paris Saint-Germain from German club Eintracht Frankfurt for an undisclosed fee.
ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti and Ross Dyer delve into Angel Di Maria's future and question whether the Argentina midfielder would be happier at PSG or Manchester United.
Salvatore Sirigu made 34 Ligue 1 starts for PSG in 2014-15.
Salvatore Sirigu could depart PSG this summer despite an impressive 2014-15 campaign.

Paris Saint-Germain will allow Salvatore Sirigu to leave the club this summer if the Italy international is unhappy following the signing of Kevin Trapp.

Sirigu, 28, was PSG's No. 1 goalkeeper as the Ligue 1 side registered an unprecedented domestic quadruple last season.

However, with coach Laurent Blanc reportedly unconvinced by Sirigu's performances in the Champions League, PSG spent €9 million on signing Trapp from Eintracht Frankfurt earlier this month.

Trapp, 25, is widely expected...

ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo behind Diego Godin for most minutes played

Diego Godin must continue his superb form for Atletico if Uruguay is to contend for top honors this summer.
Diego Godin celebrates after scoring for Atletico Madrid against Real Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.

There's been a lot of football played over the past two years, and one player leads the way in minutes played by some considerable distance. This player has effectively played over four more games than any other. 

He has led his team to La Liga glory, to the verge of ultimate European glory and has taken over the captaincy of his country.

But while he plays in Spain, he isn't one of the biggest stars of the world game at Barcelona or Real Madrid. 

In first place is Atletico Madrid...