New Delhi: The Indian national football team, fondly known as the Blue Tigers, has been drawn in Group A for the FIFA World Cup 2026 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2. The draw, conducted at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday, July 27, 2023, has placed India alongside formidable opponents Qatar, Kuwait, and the winners of the Round 1 match between Afghanistan and Mongolia.
Ranked 99th in the FIFA Rankings, India will face challenging opponents in the form of Qatar (59th), Kuwait (137th), and either Afghanistan (157th) or Mongolia (183rd). The matches will be played in a double round-robin format, with each team facing the other on a home-and-away basis.
The stakes are high for the participating teams, as the top two finishers in the qualification group will progress to Round 3 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers, earning direct entry into the prestigious AFC Asian Cup 2027.
India enters this qualification phase on the back of an impressive run in 2023, remaining unbeaten in 11 matches across the Tri-Nation Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, and the SAFF Championship. The Blue Tigers’ recent form has showcased their growing prowess and determination on the field.
In the SAFF Championship, India faced Kuwait twice, with both matches ending in a 1-1 draw. However, the Indian team displayed resilience and emerged victorious in the penalty shootout during the SAFF Final, securing their ninth sub-continental title in Bengaluru.
The upcoming qualifiers will also bring back memories of the previous edition, where India faced Qatar in inspiring performances during the World Cup Qualifiers. In Doha, India held the defending AFC Asian Cup Champions to a 0-0 draw before narrowly losing 0-1.
The Round 1 Qualifiers will witness Afghanistan and Mongolia battling it out for a spot in Group A alongside India, Qatar, and Kuwait. Both teams have faced India in recent times, with India securing a 2-1 victory against Afghanistan during the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in Kolkata last year. Similarly, India triumphed over Mongolia 2-0 in the Intercontinental Cup in Bhubaneswar earlier this year.
The draw for Group A sets the stage for an enthralling competition, with India aiming to continue their impressive form and make a strong bid for qualification to the next phase of the World Cup qualifiers.