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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.

The draw for the main sections of qualifying takes place on Saturday, July 25, 2015.


13 places

• European qualifying home page

Qualifying for 2018...

By ESPN Staff

Gordon Strachan to remain Scotland manager for World Cup qualifying

ESPN FC's former Scotland international Craig Burley sounds off on Scotland for celebrating a fourth-place finish in Euro 2016 qualifying.
ESPN FC's Craig Burley is brutally honest regarding his home nation's less than impressive performance in the group stage of the Euro 2016, failing to qualify.

Gordon Strachan will take charge of Scotland's World Cup qualifying campaign after signing a two-year extension as manager.

Strachan had taken time to consider his future after Scotland finished fourth in their European Championship group, behind Germany, Poland and play-off contenders Republic of Ireland.

But the vocal backing of an 11,000-strong travelling support in Scotland's final qualifier, a 6-0 win against Gibraltar, helped persuade Strachan to stay on.

A statement from the governing body...

 By PA Sport

UEFA denies that performance-enhancing drug use is on the increase

UEFA has moved to quash speculation that the use of performance-enhancing drugs is widespread in professional football.

European football's governing body UEFA has insisted the number of players taking performance-enhancing drugs is very low in response to allegations that its latest study reveals otherwise.

German television broadcasters ARD and WDR, alongside the Sunday Times, claim a study commissioned by UEFA fuels suspicions that drug-taking by football's top players is at a significant level.

High testosterone levels were reportedly found in urine samples of 7.7 percent of the 879 players tested by researchers,...

Kosovo set to gain entry into European competitions

Kosovo supporters cheer on the team during the March 2014 friendly against Haiti.

Kosovo can move closer to joining UEFA this week, with a place in 2018 World Cup qualifying possibly in play.

Membership of Europe's football governing body will allow the former Serbian enclave's national team and clubs to start playing in continental competitions.

That is the first step required before gaining FIFA membership, part of Kosovo's wider push for international recognition since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.

UEFA's executive committee can rule the Balkan republic eligible...

Finland hire Hans Backe to become coach in 2016

Hans Backe will take over Finland in January.

Veteran Swedish coach Hans Backe will take charge of Finland's national team from 2016, the Finnish Football Federation has announced.

The 63-year-old has a wealth of managerial experience at club level, including spells with Panathinaikos, the New York Red Bulls and FC Copenhagen, whom he led to two Danish league titles and the Danish Cup between 2001 and 2005.

A statement on the federation's website read: "Backe's contract will begin on Jan. 1, 2016, and covers the next World Cup qualifying campaign...