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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.

Qualified nations: Brazil, Iran

EUROPE:

13 places

• European qualifying home page

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

 By PA Sport

Newcastle's Rob Elliot hopes for success on domestic and international levels

Rob Elliot has just returned from a lengthy injury layoff.

Rob Elliot is hoping Newcastle can take a leaf out of the Republic of Ireland's book as he targets Premier League and World Cup joy.

The 31-year-old goalkeeper is four games into his comeback from a knee ligament injury suffered on international duty which cost him a year of his career and in particular, a trip to the Euro 2016 finals.

Elliot could only look on helplessly as Newcastle slipped out of the Premier League at the end of the 2015-16 season, and managed just three appearances at the end...

 By Paul Murphy

Bayern Munich will benefit in Bundesliga from Singapore ICC - Klose

Tom Starke talks to ESPN FC about Chelsea's title chances and how James Rodriguez will fare at Bayern.
Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts break down James Rodriguez's contributions in Bayern Munich's 3-2 win over Chelsea.
Miroslav Klose in Singapore 2017
Miroslav says Asian preseason tours should be viewed as a blessing and not a burden.

Bayern Munich legend Miroslav Klose insists that preseason tours to distant destinations are more than a promotional exercise, and should be no barrier to success in the modern game.

The top scorer of all time in World Cup finals believes there is much to be gained through team bonding, and suggests that past experience proves that matches on the other side of the world should not harm performance levels.

His comments come as Bayern hit back at Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig who said they preferred...

 By PA Sport

Albania appoint Christian Panucci to replace Gianni De Biasi

Christian Panucci has previously managed Livorno and Ternana.

The Albanian Football Association has kept faith with Italian coaching methods by appointing former AC Milan and Roma defender Christian Panucci as Gianni De Biasi's successor.

The 44-year-old former full-back, who played for Chelsea on loan at the turn of the century, was announced as the head of the national team on Wednesday morning.

Panucci -- briefly Fabio Capello's assistant in Russia -- follows in the footsteps of Treviso-born De Biasi, who secured Albania's surprise qualification for Euro...

Germany's Joachim Low: There's still hope for injured Reus, Sane, Gundogan

The FC crew debate whether or not Germany's Confederations Cup win makes them clear favourites at the 2018 World Cup.

Germany coach Joachim Low has handed fresh hope to players such as Marco Reus, Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan, who all were unable to take part in the Confederations Cup due to injury.

While Low rested several star players at the recent tournament in Russia which Germany won, others including Reus, Sane, Gundogan and Mario Gotze were not up for selection because of injuries and, in the case of the latter, illness.

Borussia Dortmund winger Reus has been hit hard in particular by injuries, missing...