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EXPLAINED: How Can Indian Football Team Qualify For 2026 FIFA World Cup?

Team India beat Kuwait 1-0 in the first match of the second round of FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifiers. They now face Qatar at home on November 21.

EXPLAINED: How Can Indian Football Team Qualify For 2026 FIFA World Cup? Indian football team. (Image: X)

India's men's football team beat Kuwait in the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers on Thursday to kickstart their Round 2 on a positive note. Manvir Singh scored the lone goal of the match in the 75th minute to help India beat Kuwait at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium.

India are placed in Group A of Round 2 alongside Kuwait, Qatar and Afghanistan. India's next clash is against Qatar on November 21 in Bhubaneswar. If India want to qualify for the third round, they must finish in the top 2 of Group A at the end of the Round 2. 

Also Read | WATCH: Manvir Singh Powers India To 1-0 Win Over Kuwait In FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers Round 2

In Round 2, each of the four teams in Group A, along with eight other AFC groups, will engage in a double round-robin format. This involves facing each other home and away between November 2023 and June 2024. That means India plays, home and away, clashes againsr Kuwait, Qatar and Afghanistan in times to come.

India's road to FIFA World Cup 2026

India has a challenging yet straightforward path ahead. They aim for a top-two finish in Group A to progress to the next stage of the World Cup qualifiers. So, a total of 18 teams will go to Round 3, nine group winners and respective runner ups. Securing this spot not only means advancing but also guarantees their spot in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

In 2024, a draw will determine three groups of six teams each for the third round. The top two teams from these groups will secure spots in the main event.

In the previous 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, India secured third place in their group, missing out on direct advancement. Qatar and Oman claimed the top two spots, progressing to the next stage.

India are 102nd-ranked side in the world. It will not be easy vs Qatar, who are ranked 61st in FIFA rankings. This match will take place at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

It was not easy either against Kuwait, who were down to just 10-man team after Faizal Zaid Al-Harbi of Kuwait was sent off in second-half stoppage time. Kuwait had started the match well, keeping possession of the ball for most part of the first half. But as the minutes passed, India's midfield pressed higher and started creating chances for the strikers. India's Sahal Abdul Samad had a chance in the 18th minute but failed to convert it into a goal. Both teams went neck and neck till Manvir scored the winner in the 75th minute.

The Blue Tigers need their veteran player Sunil Chhetri to do well in the further Round 2 games.