Battle lines drawn for 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers

Battle lines drawn for 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers

QLNews
By QLNews

Reigning Asian champions Qatar, who will also host the deferred 2023 AFC Asian Cup next January, have been placed in Group A in the second round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers.

The official draw ceremony was held at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday.

While India and Kuwait will directly join Qatar in the second round, Mongolia will play Afghanistan twice in the first round to decide Group A’s final team.

Qatar, 59th in the world, are the highest-ranked team in Group A. They are followed by India (99) and Kuwait (137).

The 2026 World Cup Asian qualification event will also be used to select teams for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia.

The second round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers will feature 36 teams and will be played from November 16 to June 11, 2024.

While 26 teams gained direct entry into the second round, the other 10 will be chosen from among 20 teams, who will play in a home and away-format for qualification.

The 36 teams in the second round have been divided into nine groups of four each. After a round-robin home and away format event, the top two sides from each group will progress to round three of World Cup qualifications. Those 18 teams will also qualify for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

The draw for the third round of the global showpiece in 2026 will be conducted in 2024, where the 18 teams will be divided into three groups of six. The top two from each group will qualify directly for the FIFA World Cup 2026.

The other two direct AFC entrants will be determined in the fourth round of World Cup qualifying, with one more possible berth available via an Intercontinental Play-off.

Groups for FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers

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/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

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