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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. 


 By Colin Udoh

John Mikel Obi, Odion Ighalo leading an exodus of Nigerians to China

Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts talk through the pick of the Chinese Super League deals on European deadline day.
Odion Ighalo
Odion Ighalo completed his move from Watford to Chinese club Changchun Yatai on the final day of the winter transfer window.

First it was captain John Mikel Obi. Then forward Odion Ighalo followed. Now reports have emerged that midfielder Ogenyi Onazi and striker Brown Ideye could also be on their way to China.

Once considered the graveyard of football careers, the Chinese Super League is still not much higher up that particular totem pole despite attracting some of the world's biggest talent, with obscene wages proving an irresistible allure.

If the last two moves go through, Asia's money-spraying league would have claimed...

 By Colin Udoh

Nigeria need to be at their best to beat resurgent Cameroon in CAF qualifying

Kelechi Iheanacho
After failing to qualify for the African Nations Cup, Nigeria has high hopes with young stars like Man City's Kelechi Iheanacho.

Cameroon's African Nations Cup win this past weekend did more than stun the continent. Marked down as no-hopers, even by themselves, after seven key players chose to put their club careers over their country, the Indomitable Lions showed gritty resolve, stern determination and supreme confidence in the whole being greater than the sum of its parts to reach and win the final against record seven-time champions Egypt.

"After we qualified, the first objective was to make it out of the group stage,"...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Avram Grant to leave role as coach of Ghana after African Nations Cup

Avram Grant
Avram Grant has been in charge of Ghana for just over two years.

Ghana will begin the search for a new coach to rescue their World Cup campaign after it was confirmed on Tuesday that Avram Grant would leave at the end of his contract.

Grant, 62, was in the final month of his deal to lead the national team, having been in charge since Dec. 1, 2014. But he will leave following the African Nations Cup in Gabon, where Ghana could only finish fourth after losing to eventual-champions Cameroon in the semifinals and Burkina Faso in the third-place playoff.

The Ghana...

 By Colin Udoh

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

Gab Marcotti explains why FIFA's decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams has its benefits, but not everyone agrees.

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...