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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.



13 places

• European qualifying home page

Qualifying for 2018 sees seven groups of six nations and two groups of five. 


Socceroos second highest Asian team at 40th in FIFA rankings

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts break down all the action from the 1-1 draw between Australia and Japan in AFC WCQ.

Australia have jumped five spots to 40th on the latest FIFA world rankings.

On the back of recent draws in the AFC World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and Japan, the Socceroos have climbed to their highest position since 2012.

They gained 20 points since the September rankings, taking them to 663 and putting them ahead of the likes of Ghana, Korea, Serbia and Greece.

While still a long way off their all-time highest position of 14th in 2009, Ange Postecoglou's team have made giant strides...

Former FIFA official Worawi Makudi banned 5 years for forgery

FIFA president Gianni Infantino explains the options available to create an expanded World Cup competition.
The ESPN FC crew discuss some of the potential pitfalls of an expanded FIFA World Cup.
Former FAT President Worawi Makudi
FIFA said it had found Worawi Makudi guilty of forgery and falsification of documents.

Former FIFA executive committee member Worawi Makudi has been banned from football for five years for election forgery.

On Tuesday, the judging chamber of FIFA's ethics committee said it had found Thailand's Makudi guilty of forgery and falsification of documents and refusing to cooperate with investigators.

He was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,100).

Makudi, a long-time ally of former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, was a member of the executive committee for 18 years...

Gregorio Manzano: No official approach over China coach vacancy

Gregorio Manzano
Gregorio Manzano says he is concentrating on the Chinese Super League.

Shanghai Shenhua coach Gregorio Manzano has said he has not been contacted by the Chinese Football Association about the national team vacancy.

Speculation is growing that Manzano is a candidate to take over from Gao Hongbo, who resigned last week after picking up one point from China's first four matches in the final phase of World Cup qualifying.

However, the Spaniard, who joined Shenhua at the start of the year after two seasons at Beijing Guoan, stressed his focus remained on Shanghai.

"I haven't...

 By Paul Murphy

Thailand-Australia WCQ remains in Bangkok, Muangthong take PLT crown

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts examine whether or not Thailand should put all their efforts into winning the AFF Suzuki Cup after another WC qualifying defeat.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) has performed a swift U-turn by announcing that next month's World Cup qualifier at home to Australia will be played in Bangkok as originally planned.

On Friday, the FAT had suggested it would request a change to a neutral venue or a switch to Australia, following last Thursday's passing of Thailand's revered monarch, King Bhumipol Adulyadej. The Thai government had announced a 30-day mourning period in which entertainment events would be cancelled or toned...