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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 Ben Gladwell

Mario Balotelli Italy recall put in doubt by national team manager

Julien Laurens says Mario Balotelli not only needs to rebound from his red card, but needs to step up his overall effort.
FC's Gab Marcotti reviews Mario Balotelli's sending off against Lorient, and why his form has dropped so drastically.
Wylan Cyprien's second goal in three matches helped Nice overcome Mario Balotelli's red card in a win at Lorient.
Mario Balotelli got his third red card for Nice, for what seems to be dissent after the ref ignored his claims for a foul.
After Mario Balotelli's glowing start at Nice, Julien Laurens explains why things seem to be falling apart.

Italy's team manager Gabriele Oriali has said "it's best if we talk about [Mario Balotelli] as little as possible, for everybody's sake," after the Nice striker was overlooked for a two-day training camp with the Squadra Azzurra this week.

Twenty two fringe players -- mainly consisting of youngsters -- were selected by Italy coach Giampiero Ventura for a get-together in Coverciano less than a month before he picks his next squad for a World Cup qualifier with Albania and international friendly against...

 By PA Sport

Football Association of Wales to appeal FIFA sanctions over poppies

Poppies were displayed around the Cardiff City Stadium for their match with Serbia in November.

The Football Association of Wales says it will appeal against the sanctions imposed by FIFA over its commemoration of Remembrance Day during the World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Cardiff on Nov. 12.

The FAW was fined 20,000 Swiss francs (just under £16,000) by the sport's governing body on Dec. 19 for the displays of poppies around the stadium.

FIFA interpreted the poppy as a political symbol, but the FAW disputed this at the time and has now indicated it will appeal against the fine imposed.

A...

Germany assistant coaches Andreas Kopke, Thomas Schneider extend deals

Germany coaching staff
Andreas Kopke (second left) and Thomas Schneider (second right) will work with Germany up until the end of Euro 2020.

Germany assistant coaches Andreas Kopke and Thomas Schneider have signed new deals with the German Football Assocation (DFB).

The duo will continue to work in Germany's coaching setup until the end of Euro 2020 -- the same time as head coach Joachim Low, assistant coach Marcus Sorg and general team manager Oliver Bierhoff's contracts all expire.

Kopke, goalkeeping coach since 2004, and Schneider, who joined following the World Cup triumph in Brazil in 2014, were the last remaining members of the...

 By PA Sport

Scottish FA to appeal against FIFA fine over poppy tributes at Wembley

The Scottish and English FAs have both been fined by FIFA due to their players wearing poppies.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) will appeal against the fine imposed by FIFA over poppy tributes at Wembley.

The SFA, which was fined 20,000 Swiss francs (£15,692), has followed its English counterpart in deciding to challenge the sanctions, which were brought after the Nov. 11 World Cup qualifier between the two nations.

An SFA statement read: "We have received written reasons from FIFA's disciplinary committee relating to the sanction imposed for commemorating Remembrance Day during...