FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers.
Indian men’s football team is gearing up to kick off their campaign in the second round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers. Placed in Group A alongside football powerhouses Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, India faces a challenging path to secure a spot in the third qualifying round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America. The 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification process will determine the teams that will participate alongside the host nations Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the tournament. The qualification journey commenced on September 7, 2023, with three matches in the CONMEBOL zone. Colombian player Rafael Santos Borré scored the inaugural goal of the qualification series.
FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC Qualifiers Schedule: Indian Football Team’s Second Round Matches
As the Indian football team embarks on their journey through the second round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers, fans eagerly anticipate a series of thrilling matches that will put their skills and determination to the test. The team, led by captain Sunil Chhetri, faces formidable opponents in Group A, including Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Asian champions Qatar. Here’s a glimpse of the upcoming fixtures that will unfold in the pursuit of securing a coveted spot in the third qualifying round and a direct entry into the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
|November 16, Thursday||Kuwait vs India||10:00 PM||Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium, Kuwait City|
|November 21, Tuesday||India vs Qatar||7:00 PM||Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar|
|March 21, Thursday||Afghanistan vs India||TBD||TBD|
|March 26, Tuesday||India vs Afghanistan||TBD||Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati|
|June 6, Thursday||India vs Kuwait||TBD||TBD|
|June 11, Tuesday||Qatar vs India||TBD||TBD|
Group Composition and Qualification Stakes
The 36 teams participating in the second round are divided into nine groups of four, with the top two from each group advancing to the next stage. For India, securing a top-two finish in Group A not only means progression in the World Cup qualifiers but also guarantees a direct entry into the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, slated to take place in Saudi Arabia.
India, ranked 102nd in FIFA rankings, opens its campaign with an away match against Kuwait on Thursday. Led by the prolific Sunil Chhetri, the Indian team is set to face Afghanistan twice in March, Qatar on June 11, and a highly anticipated showdown with the top-seeded Qatar on November 21 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers: Indian football squad
- Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Vishal Kaith
- Defenders: Akash Mishra, Lalchungnunga, Mehtab Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Rahul Bheke, Roshan Singh Naorem, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose
- Midfielders: Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Lalengmawia, Liston Colaco, Mahesh Singh Naorem, Rohit Kumar, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Udanta Singh Kumam
- Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Manvir Singh, Rahul KP, Sunil Chhetri
While the Indian men’s football team has made significant strides, participating in four Olympic Games and four AFC Asian Cups, the elusive qualification for the FIFA World Cup main draw remains a dream. India’s best performance in the AFC Asian Cup came in 1964 when they finished as runners-up.
Football enthusiasts across India can catch all the action from India’s FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers matches through live streaming and telecast. Stay tuned as the nation rallies behind its football heroes in this quest for global recognition. As the journey unfolds, the Indian football faithful eagerly awaits every kick, goal, and triumph, hoping that this campaign marks a historic chapter in the nation’s footballing legacy.
Qualified teams for the 2026 World Cup
- USMNT (hosts)
- Canada (hosts)
- Mexico (hosts)
FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers Format
The qualification format, introduced on August 1, 2022, underwent a redesign to accommodate an expanded finals allocation, featuring eight direct qualifiers and one play-off qualifier:
- First Round: Twenty teams (ranked 27–46) engaged in a two-legged home-and-away contest. The ten victorious teams progressed to the second round. The defeated teams remain eligible for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualification – play-off round (nine), as well as the AFC Solidarity Cup.
- Second Round: Thirty-six teams (ranked 1–26 and the ten first-round winners) were organized into nine groups of four teams. These teams competed on a home-and-away basis. The nine group winners and runners-up advanced to the third round, securing automatic qualification for the AFC Asian Cup.
- Third Round: Eighteen teams, having advanced from the second round, were divided into three groups of six teams. The teams played against each other home-and-away. The top two teams from each group earned direct qualification for the FIFA World Cup, while the third and fourth-placed teams progressed to the fourth round.
- Fourth Round: Six teams, comprising third and fourth-placed finishers from the third round, were split into two groups of three teams each. Matches were played once in a neutral venue. The group winners secured World Cup qualification, and the runners-up advanced to the fifth round.
- Fifth Round: In this stage, the group runners-up from the fourth round engaged in a two-legged home-and-away competition to determine the Asian representative for the inter-confederation play-offs.
FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers Tiebreakers
For the two round-robin formats, the criteria to determine standings in case of a tie are outlined in Regulations Article 11.5:
- Highest total points accumulated in all group matches (3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a loss).
- Superior goal differential in all group matches.
- Maximum number of goals scored in all group matches.
If two or more teams maintain an equal rank after applying criteria 1-3, the following additional criteria are employed:
- Highest total points in all matches played among the concerned teams.
- Better goal differential in all matches played among the concerned teams.
- Maximum goals scored in all matches played among the concerned teams.
- Highest number of away goals in all matches played among the concerned teams.
In addition, a team’s conduct is considered using the following scoring system:
- First yellow card: -1 point
- Second yellow card/indirect red card: -3 points
- Direct red card: -4 points
- Yellow card and direct red card: -5 points
Only one score is applied to any player or team official in a match. For instance, a player receiving a second yellow card incurs only -3 points, not -4 (-1 for the first and -3 for the second).
If the tournament occurs in a single host nation or neutral territory, criterion 7 is not applied (Regulations Article 11.6).
In the home-and-away knockout format, the team with more goals over two matches wins the tie and advances. In the single-leg knockout format, the team with more goals in a single match wins and advances. If the teams are level after regulation, two 15-minute periods of extra time follow. If a tie persists after extra time, a penalty shoot-out determines the winner (Regulations Articles 11.9, 11.10).
FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC Qualifiers Draw
The draw for the initial and subsequent rounds of joint qualification occurred in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 27, 2023. The top 26 ranked teams received byes to the second round, while the remaining 20 teams, entering the first round, were categorized into two pots of 10 each. The drawing process alternated between pot 1 and pot 2 to create pairings. The team from pot 1 hosted the first leg, and the team from pot 2 hosted the second leg.
For the second round draw, pots 1, 2, and 3 comprised teams ranked 1–9, 10–18, and 19–26, respectively. Pot 4 included placeholders for the ten first-round ties. Initially, nine teams were drawn from pot 4 and assigned to position 4 in each group. The tenth team from pot 4 was transferred to pot 3 and subsequently drawn randomly from pot 3. The drawing process then proceeded sequentially for each group, starting with pots 3, 2, and 1.
FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC Qualifiers Slot allocation
On March 30, 2017, the FIFA Council Bureau, consisting of the FIFA president and the presidents of the six confederations, suggested a slot distribution for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. This proposal was later presented to the FIFA Council for approval.
On May 9, 2017, just prior to the 67th FIFA Congress, the FIFA Council endorsed the slot allocation during a meeting in Manama, Bahrain. The approved plan includes a playoff tournament involving six teams from different confederations to determine the final two spots in the FIFA World Cup.
Notably, the ratified slot allocation ensures a guaranteed spot for the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) in the tournament, marking the first time in FIFA World Cup history that all six confederations are guaranteed at least one berth in the final competition.