The Indian men’s football team has been drawn in Group A of the AFC second round of 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification, along with Qatar, Kuwait, and the winner of the match between Afghanistan and Mongolia. The draw ceremony took place at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
India had recently defeated Kuwait at SAFF Championship final and also earned a draw against 2019 AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar in the previous World Cup qualifying campaign.
Igor Stimac’s side will begin their qualifying campaign later this year and it will run till June 2024. Qatar, who hosted the previous men’s World Cup, are the best ranked team (WR 59) in Group A followed by India (WR 99) and Kuwait (137).
The AFC second round of 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification will involve 36 teams, divided into nine groups of four each. They play in a home and away round robin format. The top two teams will make it to the third round of qualification and qualify for the 2027 Asian Cup while the rest will advance to the third round of the Asian Cup qualification.
Considering the recent result against Kuwait and gulf in rankings between India and Afghanistan/Mongolia, Igor Stimac and Co should be aiming to finish second in the group. It would be a marked step indicating sustained competitiveness at the Asian level, something that is eluded Indian football.
India made it to the Pot 2 of the draw after a string of strong results, winning the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship. The fight for a spot in Pot 2 was with Lebanon who they played against in both the competitions and defeated them twice.
Out of the 36, 26 teams have received byes to this round, and the rest 10 will be the winner from the first round. The first round matches are yet to take place.
FIFA World Cup 2026 qualification: Groups
Group A: Qatar, India, Kuwait, Afghanistan/Mongolia.
Group B: Japan, Syria, North Korea, Myanmar/Macau.
Group C: South Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore/Guam.
Group D: Oman, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei/Timor-Leste.
Group E: Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Hong Kong China/Bhutan.
Group F: Iraq, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia/Brunei.
Group G: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tajikistan, Cambodia/Pakistan.
Group H: UAE, Bahrain, Yemen/Sri Lanka, Nepal/Laos.
Group I: Australia, Palestine, Lebanon, Maldives/Bangladesh.