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World Cup path laid out for Oceania

“This is an important day in the long and winding road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup,” FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter said.# “The tournament is very much on track and Russia will be fantastic hosts. But first a much longer competition must take place, lasting no less than 33 months, with over 850 matches taking place. And when all’s said and done, we will know the teams that will compete in Russia.”#For Oceania, the Road to Russia gets underway on 31 August 2015 when the first matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Oceania Qualifying Stage 1 tournament kicks off in Tonga.# Four nations will contest Stage 1, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and hosts Tonga, with the winner progressing to Stage 2 where they will join the seven remaining Oceania Member Associations.# The eight teams have been drawn into two round-robin groups of four teams each, which will compete for the OFC Nations Cup, a one-off tournament in a yet-to-be-determined location, in 2016.# Group A features 2012 OFC Nations Cup champions Tahiti, and runners-up New Caledonia as well as the Preliminary winners and Papua New Guinea. Group B consists of regional heavyweights New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu.#From here, three teams from each section will move through to Stage 3 where the six teams will be placed into two groups of three teams. The sides will compete in a round-robin, home-and-away battle to top their group. The two group winners will advance to a single home-and-away series.#The regional winner earns the right to face the fifth-placed South American side in the two-legged Intercontinental Play-off in November 2017 for a place at Russia 2018.#OFC President David Chung says it will be a long and arduous journey for each of the competing teams.# “There is no doubt that this is one of the longest world cup qualifying paths Oceania teams have faced,” he says.# “It will be an exciting journey, especially for the region’s football fans, who will have plenty of opportunities over the course of qualifying to see their favourite teams and players in action on home soil.”

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