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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 Paul Murphy

Maya Yoshida wishes Chanathip well on move to Japan from Thailand

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts recap the big wins for Japan, South Korea and Iran in AFC World Cup qualifying.
Jason Dasey and Stanely Bernard discuss Thailand's future after winning their record fifth AFF Cup.

SAITAMA -- Japan centre-back Maya Yoshida hopes Chanathip Songkrasin can help lift Thai football to greater heights after the Muang Thong United playmaker joins J.League side Consadole Sapporo in July.

Southampton man Yoshida was on target in the Samurai Blue's 4-0 victory over Thailand in Tuesday's Group B 2018 World Cup qualifier in Saitama. Despite the scoreline, the defender was not impressed by his side's performance. Yet he found the time to give Chanathip -- fondly known as "Messi J" across...

 By Jason Dasey

Why Asian champions Australia could surprise at the Confederations Cup

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts break down all the action from Australia's 2-0 victory over United Arab Emirates.
Australia prevailed 2-0 over the UAE courtesy of goals from Jackson Irvine and Mathew Leckie.
Mile Jedinak takes the positives from Australia's 2-0 win, as the Aussies eye a 4th straight World Cup appearance.

Australia's cavalier approach may have contributed to their precarious position in 2018 World Cup qualifying, but it could help them spring an upset or two in June's Confederations Cup.

The Socceroos remain out Asia's automatic qualification places, despite a crucial 2-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates in Sydney on Tuesday night. They're third in Group B, three points behind joint leaders Japan and Saudi Arabia.

And by the time the Asian champions head to Russia in mid-June to face up to Germany,...