The Indian men’s football squad is preparing to launch their journey in the second round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers.
FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers.
The Indian men’s football team is getting set to commence their journey in the second round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers. Positioned in Group A alongside football giants Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, India is confronting a tough road to clinch a place in the third qualifying round for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America.
Schedule of Indian Football Team’s Second Round Matches in the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC Qualifiers
|November 16||Kuwait vs India||10:00 PM||Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium, Kuwait City|
|November 21||India vs Qatar||7:00 PM||Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar|
|March 21||Afghanistan vs India||TBD||TBD|
|March 26||India vs Afghanistan||TBD||Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati|
|June 6||India vs Kuwait||TBD||TBD|
|June 11||Qatar vs India||TBD||TBD|
The format for the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers is as follows:
The updated qualification format, implemented on August 1, 2022, was redesigned to accommodate an increased number of final spots. It now includes eight direct qualifiers and one play-off qualifier:
First Round – Twenty teams ranked 27–46 participated in a two-legged home-and-away contest. The ten winning teams progressed to the second round, while the defeated teams remained eligible for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualification – play-off round (nine) and the AFC Solidarity Cup.
Second Round – Thirty-six teams, comprising the top 26 ranked teams and the ten winners from the initial round, were divided into nine groups, each with four teams. They competed in home-and-away matches. The nine teams topping their groups and the runners-up progressed to the third round, securing direct qualification for the AFC Asian Cup.
Third Round – Eighteen teams emerging from the second stage were segregated into three groups, each consisting of six teams. Within their groups, these teams clashed in home-and-away fixtures. Direct qualification for the FIFA World Cup was secured by the top two teams from each group, while the third and fourth-placed teams progressed to the subsequent round.
Fourth Round – Six teams, consisting of third and fourth-placed finishers from the third round, were divided into two groups of three teams each. Matches were held at neutral venues. The group winners secured World Cup qualification, and the runners-up proceeded to the fifth round.
Fifth Round – In this stage, the 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.
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