Explained | FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: How Can India Still Qualify For Next Round

Here is what India -- and the other teams in Group A of AFC second round -- need to do for Igor Stimac's team to qualify for next round

India captain Sunil Chhetri turned up for the 150th time in India blues. Photo: X/@IndianFootball

After their shocking loss to Afghanistan in the home leg of the FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifying tie, India's hopes of making the next round took a massive hit. Even though the scenario for the Blue Tigers to advance to the third round remains complicated, they are still not out of contention. (More Football News)

India are in Group A of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualification – AFC second round along with continental champions Qatar, Kuwait and of course Afghanistan. Here is what India (and the other teams in the group) need to do for Igor Stimac's much-maligned Blue Tigers to qualify for next round.

What is the situation?

Despite the shocking 1-2 loss to Afghanistan, India remain second in their group courtesy 'the goal difference rule'. Both India and Afghanistan have played four games and have four points, while the other teams in the group, Qatar and Kuwait have played three matches each.

Qatar, who had successfully defended their AFC Asian Cup title at home earlier this year, are comfortably at the top with three wins and nine points while Kuwait continue to languish at the bottom with three points.

Who India play next?

India play hosts to Kuwait on June 6 in Kolkata and then visit Qatar on June 11.

How India can advance to next round?

Beating Kuwait will strengthen India's chances.

If India win, then they will have seven points. The advantage that the Blue Tigers have over Afghanistan is their superior goal difference, one accentuated by a defensive discipline.

Assuming that both Afghanistan and India will lose to Qatar in the one match each that they two continental minnows have left against the hosts of last FIFA World Cup, the Lions of Khorasan will have to not just win against Kuwait but do so by a big margin to go ahead of Sunil Chhetri & Co. The Kuwait vs Afghanistan match is also scheduled for June11.

What if India draw against Kuwait?

A draw for India would make things even more complicated. They will then have to wish for a draw in the Afghanistan vs Kuwait match as well. Even if that happens, a loss to Qatar could bring curtains down on India's already fraught World Cup qualifying campaign.

What if India lose to Kuwait?

India, now slipped to 117 in the FIFA rankings, swould have to upstage the 37th ranked Qatar in case they are not able to beat Kuwait at the Salt Lake Stadium. This would be a highly unlikely scenario for India -- meaning, a loss to Kuwait would be the end of India's campaign.

India vs Qatar head-to-head

India are yet to rattle to Qatari net, but have already conceded 10 goals. The best that they have managed against Qatar was a goalless draw in an away fixture in September 2019. Four matches: one draw and three defeats.