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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 Colin Udoh

CAF must take FIFA's lead and expand the African Nations Cup

ESPN FC's Colin Udoh previews the African Cup of Nations and explains why he supports a 48-team World Cup.

By the end of the week, two events of significance to African and world football would have taken place.

Two events which, on the surface appear disparate, but upon closer scrutiny, are just vines born of the same root.

First, FIFA voted to expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams. It is not a decision that has gone down well with many, and will continue to generate fierce debate going forward.

The major argument being that such an increase would not only present the possibility of too many matches...

South Africa coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba fired after rant at critics

Ephraim Shakes Mashaba was South Africa coach since 2014.

The coach of South Africa's national team has been fired following a disciplinary hearing into his comments after a World Cup qualifier last month.

Shakes Mashaba was suspended after a television camera caught him ranting at his critics, while reports claimed he also insulted the head of the country's soccer federation after a 2-1 win against Senegal on Nov. 12.

At a hearing that took place over five days this month, Mashaba was found guilty of three charges -- gross misconduct/professional misconduct,...

 By Colin Udoh

After a long road back, revitalised Anichebe nearing Nigeria return

Victor Anichebe inspired Sunderland to a first league win on Saturday.
Victor Anichebe has been in great form for Sunderland, scoring three goals in six appearances for David Moyes' side.

It was June 2011. Nigeria were in Addis Ababa playing Ethiopia with two more games of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers to go.

Guinea were top of the group, and had just beaten Madagascar 4-1 and the Super Eagles needed a result ahead of their next game away to Madagascar in order to take the race to the final game in Abuja, where they would face the Guineans in a win or bust match later that October.

Ike Uche had given Nigeria the lead, but the hosts came storming back to score twice...