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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 Ian Holyman

Karim Benzema on freeze-out from France squad: 'I have to know'

France coach Didier Deschamps has said he has been highly impressed by Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe.

Karim Benzema has demanded Didier Deschamps give him an explanation for his continued absence from the France squad, telling RMC: "I have to know."

Benzema has not featured for his country since October 2015 after initially being suspended by the French Football Federation (FFF) due to his alleged involvement in the alleged extortion of France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

Legal restrictions preventing the Real Madrid forward and Valbuena meeting were eased ahead of UEFA EURO 2016, leading to speculation...

Italy v Albania: Preview

ItalyItaly
AlbaniaAlbania
7:45 PM UTC
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Gianluigi Buffon will play his 1,000th senior match when Italy face Albania in a World Cup qualifier on Friday with the veteran seemingly no closer to thinking about retirement.

The Italy and Juventus goalkeeper, 39, who has previously joked he will retire when he is 65, was giving little away about his future plans after arriving in Palermo on Thursday.

``As far as I'm concerned, tomorrow will be a great achievement and the only assurance I can give is that there will not be another thousand,'' he...

Spain v Israel: Preview

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IsraelIsrael
7:45 PM UTC
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Gerard Deulofeu is looking to cement his place in the Spain squad in Friday's World Cup qualifier against Israel.

The 23-year-old AC Milan midfielder, on loan from Everton, won his only cap to date in a friendly against Bolivia in 2014 but, having received another call-up, he is aiming to prove he belongs when it matters.

``I am very happy to be here and to have this confidence shown in me,'' Deulofeu said.

``I'm working hard. I want to help the team and to be part of it more often.''

The former Barcelona...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Sergio Aguero has recovered starting spot for Argentina - Edgardo Bauza

Argentina manager Edgardo Bauza is confident of World Cup qualification ahead of their qualifier against Chile.

Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza has backed Sergio Aguero to help his front line against Chile in Thursday's World Cup qualifying match.

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala has been ruled out against Chile and Bauza said on Thursday that Aguero is ready to regain the spot, just as he did for Manchester City when Gabriel Jesus was injured. After falling behind the Brazil international at City, Aguero has come back to score seven goals in his last seven games in all competitions.

"With Dybala's absence, 'Kun'...