FIFA World Cup 2026 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2
India draw Qatar, Kuwait in four-team Group A of Round 2 Qualifiers
27 Jul 2023

AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: The Blue Tigers have been drawn in Group A of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 against Qatar, Kuwait, and winners of the Round 1 match between Afghanistan and Mongolia, after the draw was conducted at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday, July 27, 2023.

Beginning from Pot 2 of the Qualifiers, India, who are placed 99th in the FIFA Rankings, will face Qatar (59th), Kuwait (137th), and the winners of the match between Afghanistan (157th), Mongolia (183rd) in a double round-robin format on a home-and-away basis.

The teams that finish in the top two positions in the qualification group will enter Round 3 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers, and get direct entry into the AFC Asian Cup 2027.

Blue Tigers head coach Igor Stimac said after the draw, “It was a very busy and exciting day of football for us in India. Now that we know all the opponents, we can clearly say that we were successful against all these teams in the recent past.

“I felt we were not lucky there and all these teams (in Group A), we’ve faced in recent times. We faced Qatar a long time ago, and have shown that even then we were successful against them,” he said. “I beg everyone in India, all the stakeholders, let’s start our meetings and planning, let’s do everything to make sure that the Indian Football Team get enough time to prepare so we can match these teams, outplay them on the pitch, and go through as the winners in the group.”

India have been in hot form in 2023, going on an 11-match unbeaten streak, spanning the Tri-Nation Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, and the SAFF Championship. During the course of this treble-winning run, India have played Kuwait twice in the SAFF Championship, with both matches, in the group stage and the final, ending 1-1. However, the Blue Tigers successfully converted the penalty shootout in the SAFF Final into a ninth sub-continental title in Bengaluru, earlier this month.

Igor Stimac’s men had also been clubbed alongside Qatar in the previous edition of the World Cup Qualifiers, where they produced a couple of inspiring performances against the defending AFC Asian Cup Champions in Doha - earning a 0-0 draw before losing 0-1.

Afghanistan and Mongolia, who are set to face each other in the Round 1 Qualifiers, have also played against India in recent times. The former were clubbed in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers, which were played in Kolkata last year; India won the match 2-1.

Meanwhile, Mongolia faced India in the Intercontinental Cup in Bhubaneswar earlier this year, with the Blue Tigers emerging 2-0 winners.

Group A: Qatar, India, Kuwait, WP1 (Afghanistan/Mongolia).

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