The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) will be overseeing another massive event with the FIFA Word Cup finals being held in Russia 2018. Understandably the largest international team sport in the world has to narrow down a field of 211 countries to 32 for the finals in 2018, which starts now. Such a big field of teams is a prime example of how inclusive this tournament is. World Cup 2018 will see Gibralter and Kosovo join the tournament.

Qualification is divided by geography into Africa, Asia, Europe, North, Central, and Caribbean, Oceania and South America. Commencing in 2105 and finishing in late 2017 qualification is already well underway.

Round 1 of European qualification matches starts 4th September 2016 17:00 GMT. San Marino play Azerbaijan in Group C at Stadio Olimpico, Serravalle. FIFA’s Euro 2016 tournament that has just ended will serve to be a good guide to how European teams will perform during this international qualification period. San Marino will be looking for the second ever victory and first in World Cup qualifying. Most predictions in the this match are going with Azerbaijan.

Who will England be playing in World Cup qualification?

England where draw in Group F in St Petersburg in July 2015 alongside; Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta, as well as fellow home nation Scotland. Some relief may be felt by fans that Wales wasn’t drawn in Group F considering how well they played at Euro 2016.

Sunday 4 September 2016, 17:00 GMT, VS Slovakia AWAY

Saturday 8 October 2016, 17:00 GMT, VS Malta HOME

Tuesday 11 October 2016, 20.45 GMT, VS Slovenia AWAY

Friday 11 November 2016, 20.45 GMT, VS Scotland HOME

Sunday 26 March 2017, 18.00 GMT, VS Lithuania HOME

Saturday 10 June 2017, 18.00 GMT, VS Scotland AWAY

Friday 1 September 2017, 20.45 GMT, VS Malta AWAY

Monday 4 September 2017, 20.45 GMT, VS Slovakia HOME

Thursday 5 October 2017, 20.45 GMT, VS Slovenia HOME

Sunday 8 October 2017, 18:00 GMT, VS Lithuania AWAY

Criticism of England’s Euro 2016 performance has been rife. With bewilderment about why the system wasn’t changed after England’s last world cup performance. Roy Hodgeson was criticised for not nailing down his team, system and over all strategy. Having plenty of opportunity to get a winning strategy Hodgeson appeared that he does not have a favourite team for England. Perhaps he was trying to fit his strategy around his players rather than setting a system, sticking to it, and finding the best players for that system. Other Nations train their plays for international duties at club level preparing them for what to expect, something not done by United Kingdom’s football association (FA). England’s players looked confused by Hodgeson’s team formation during Euro 2016. Perhaps the situation will change with appointment of England’s next manager, tipped to be a foreigner, however, West Ham’s Sam Allardyce is currently favourite.

In spite of this, England are likely to fall back into their old routine of winning or drawing all the qualifying matches. Qualification before the World Cup this time round will be more telling than previously during the era of the Gerrard Lampard midfield partnership, because pressure is mounting to change how the next manager will shape the team. Of course, the focus to initiate this change will need to come from the echelons of the FA.

A new era for English international football has been ushered in. A era of the Dele Ali and Harry Kane partnership. Question marks over which midefielder will be attacking and pressing enough to link up properly with Vardy. Has Wayne Rooney had his day, and, will the diamond formation be banished to be replaced by formation that the players are more used to.

Wales should also find the playing in the Group D easy enough facing Moldova on Monday 5th September 2016 at 19.45 GMT at Home in Cardiff. Other qualifiying matches for Wales include.
Austria away 6th October 2016 20.45 GMT
Georgia at home 9th October 2016 17.00 GMT
Serbia at home 12th November 2016
Republic of Ireland away 24th March 2017 20.45 GMT
Serbia at away 11th June 2017 20.45 GMT
Austria at home 02 September 2017 20.45 GMT
Moldova at home 5th September 2017 20.45 GMT
Georgia away 6th October 2017 18.00 GMT
Republic of Ireland at home 9th October 2017 20.45 GMT

Another tournament for Gareth Bale to show case why he is the most expensive player in the world.

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