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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. 


ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Madeira airport preparing to be renamed after Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo looks forward to playing Sweden in an international friendly near his birth place on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Craig Burley and Mark Donaldson give their take on what makes the ultimate footballer based on five core attributes.
With a brace against Hungary, Janusz Michallik and Sebastian Salazar look at Portugal, and Ronaldo's hopes for WCQ.
Cristiano Ronaldo's brace helped Portugal breeze past Hungary, as Ronaldo claimed a 70th international goal in the process.

Madeira airport is set be officially renamed Cristiano Ronaldo Airport on Wednesday, despite opposition from local politicians.

A sign with the player's image was already being added to the facade of the airport, which until Tuesday was called the Madeira International Airport.

The Portugal captain is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side play Sweden in the city in a friendly. Portugal's squad landed on Monday at...

 By Elko Born

Netherlands must end obsession with past after Danny Blind sacking

Steve Nicol says the 'spiral' the Netherlands find themselves in lately goes beyond whoever the coach is.
Danny Blind admitted that it would be tough for the Netherlands to qualify for the World Cup after their 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria.

The past two years have been difficult for fans of the Dutch national team. After finishing third at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, they have not only had to endure losses to teams like Iceland, Czech Republic and Turkey, but two-and-a-half years of bad, boring and painfully naive football as well.

Much to the relief of those fans, Netherlands boss Danny Blind was sacked after another loss for the Oranje, a 2-0 defeat in Bulgaria. And maybe spirits within the Dutch squad will be lifted as...

 By Ian Holyman

Julen Lopetegui: 'The doors are open' for Iker Casillas to make Spain return

Julen Lopetegui expresses satisfaction with Diego Costa's form for both Spain and Chelsea after another goal.
Four players got in on the scoring for Spain as they routed a helpless Israel side in World Cup Qualifying.
Diego Costa is keen to ensure that his temperament on the pitch is under control ahead of Spain's friendly against Israel.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has told L'Equipe the door remains open for Iker Casillas.

Casillas suggested his international career, in which he won two European Championships and one World Cup, was at an end following Spain's round-of-16 exit to Italy at Euro 2016 last summer.

Spain's most-capped player with 167 appearances for his country, Casillas has continued to produce top-level performances for Porto but Lopetegui has not ruled out recalling the former Real Madrid star.

"Of course. Iker is...

 By PA Sport

England's Jermain Defoe hopes vegan diet can prolong career

Goals from Jermain Defoe and Jamie Vardy saw England past Lithuania 2-0 at Wembley.
Jermain Defoe's inspiring pre-match photo, Barcelona's tic-tac-toe training game, and much more in the Sweeper.
Dele Alli says it was an honour for him and England's young players to be on the pitch with Jermain Defoe.
Gareth Southgate hails Jermain Defoe's leadership in the England squad and says a goal was never in doubt.
Jermain Defoe reveals emotions behind his first England goal in four years while Jamie Vardy tells the source of his black-eye.

Sunderland and England striker Jermain Defoe has turned to veganism in a bid to stay on top of his game at 34.

Defoe ended a three-and-a-half-year absence from the international stage on Sunday, opening the scoring in England's 2-0 win over Lithuania at Wembley.

That was the latest instalment in a remarkable resurgence for a player whose career appeared to be winding down when he swapped Tottenham for Toronto in 2014.

Since returning to the Premier League with Sunderland he has been one of the division's...