All you need to know about how India can qualify for FIFA World Cup 2026

With India drawing Afghanistan 0-0 in their last World Cup Qualifier that took place in the middle east, it has done no good to the Blue Tiger's hopes or qualifying foe the next round. Even though on paper they are 2nd in the table having taken 4 points from 3 games.

Credit - AFC Official

Even before the previous encounter versus Afghanistan, India were the Favourites on paper as they had a 40+ difference between them on the FIFA rankings but it didn't reflect at all when both these teams met the last time. Instead, both Manvir as well as the Afghani attackers failed to capitalism upon the numerous chances created and both their keepers have had very little to do for most of that game.

With just one point taken from their three games and a  less than flattering goal-difference of -11, Afghanistan’s chances of qualifying for the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers look pretty bleak at the moment, but India are still in the reckoning. We all have to remember that India has never made it to the third round of the qualifiers, so the upcoming matches are all the more important to keep their hopes alive.

The Equation

Half of the stipulated matches  have been completed in the FIFA World Cup Qualification second round and India are between a rock and a hard place. They started out their journey with a 1-0 win over Kuwait, but a 3-0 defeat to Qatar in Bhubaneshwar caused a serious dent to their cause as well as their Goal Difference, and the draw against Afghanistan has only made India’s job at hand a lot more tougher of it wasn't in fact already tough. 

In fact, two victories against Afghanistan (One on Thursday and the other on 26 March), would have put India in prime position to qualify but now they would have to do things the hard way and hope for other results to also fall their way.

Credit - Sportskeeda

The top two teams of each of the nine groups will get the chance to advance to the third round. With that being said, India will have to win all three of their remaining games and cannot afford to drop one more point. That would take them to 13 points from six games, and they must  pray to the footballing gods and pray that Kuwait, with three points from as many games, wins only two of their remaining three games or better yet, they do not win a game at all which is highly unlikely but you never know.

Indian men's football team's head coach Igor Stimac
Igor Stimac (Credit - AFC Official)

Should India play out two more draws, that would mean India would be on just six points from five games, and that would also allow Kuwait to catch up with a couple of wins.

If India does indeed ends up drawing  against Afghanistan in the return leg in Guwahati on 26 March, and Kuwait beats Qatar, then the India vs Kuwait clash on 6 June could be the match that could end up being the game changer for both the teams in their quest for securing second place in the group.

The fact of the matter is that now India cannot afford to lose or draw another game in the FIFA World Cup qualification second round, because the more points they drop, the higher the risk of missing that top two spots gets. Afterall, Qatar (Nine  points) have a five-point lead over India (Four points) currently, and with Kuwait (Three points) and Afghanistan (One point) playing catch up, it seems tricky for Igor Stimac’s side and the table position seems more like a false dawn.

Cover Credits - The Tatva

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