Saint Petersburg: The qualifying draw involving 141 nations from five continents for the 2018 World Cup in Russia got underway in Saint Petersburg on Saturday.
The 2,000 guests at the luxurious Konstantin Palace will hear addresses by Russian president Vladimir Putin and outgoing FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.
"Met President Vladimir Putin ahead of PrelimDraw. Everything will be done for a great FIFA World Cup in Russia," Blatter posted on his official Twitter account alongside a photo of the pair shaking hands.
Brazilian legend Ronaldo and Italy`s World Cup winning captain from 2006 Fabio Cannavaro will lead an all-star cast charged with carrying out the draw.
A total of six draws will take place, one for each of FIFA`s six confederations barring Asia where qualifying has already begun, and an extra draw to see which continents will face each other for two of the last spots available in the two inter-confederation playoffs.