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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 PA Sport

FIFA fines Albanian FA for fans setting off fireworks against Italy

Albania fans
Albania's fans disrupted the World Cup qualifier against Italy.

FIFA has fined the Albanian Football Association 100,000 Swiss francs (£78,000) for the misbehaviour of its national team's fans during last month's World Cup qualifier against Italy in Palermo.

The hosts won the Group G game 2-0 but it was held up for eight minutes when Albania supporters threw fireworks, flares and smoke bombs on the pitch. Italian fans also set off flares during the game and the Italian FA has been fined nearly £12,000.

Albania has been fined by FIFA for fan incidents...

 By PA Sport

Wales' Neil Taylor gets two-game ban for Seamus Coleman tackle

The FC crew lambaste the scoreless draw between Ireland and Wales, and react to Seamus Coleman's horrific injury.

Wales defender Neil Taylor has been banned for two games for the tackle that left Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman with a double leg break.

Taylor was sent off in the 69th-minute of the goalless World Cup qualifying draw between the Republic and Wales at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on March 24, and was therefore due to serve an automatic one-match suspension, but FIFA's disciplinary committee have increased Taylor's sanction to two matches.

The Football Association of Wales said in a statement...

 By Ian Holyman

France international exile 'hurts' Karim Benzema - Zinedine Zidane

Karim Benzema has not played for France since October 2015.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has backed Karim Benzema's claims for a recall to the France squad and said the striker is hurt by his international exile.

Benzema, 29, has not played for his country since October 2015 after being named in the ongoing investigation into alleged extortion of his international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

Last month, Benzema demanded Zidane's former France teammate and current Les Blues coach Didier Deschamps give him an explanation for his continued absence, before...