Chances of the Indian national football team to reach the third stage of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup

Indian football fans are accustomed to the idea that the Indian national football team does not achieve any serious results. In 1950, the team had the only chance to go to the World Cup – and they themselves refused it. At the Asian Cup in 1964, they managed to take silver, but then there were only four participants; in recent years, the maximum that can be achieved is an unsuccessful struggle in the group, and it happens that there is no place for the “Blue Tigers” in the final part.

That is why this article is not about whether the Indian team will be able to make it to the World Cup – here and now this is simply the ultimate dream. We will only talk about the chances of making it to the third and final stage of qualifying for the World Cup. If you want to support the team with a bet and like sports betting, go to bookmaker companies review.

Start of the second stage of selection and “success” at the Asian Cup

When assessing the prospects of any team, it is wise to start with an analysis of its current form. The last five matches of the Indian team were official, which means they are good for assessing their abilities, because in such games it is customary to give your all. The results, however, will not please anyone.

In November 2023, the Blue Tigers began their journey into the second stage of qualifying for the World Cup with two matches against Kuwait and Qatar. The Kuwaitis are roughly comparable in strength to the Indians, and it was not easy for the latter in the away match – the guests managed to snatch a minimal victory towards the end of the game. The Qataris, who have now won the last two Asian Cups, easily defeated the Indian team in Bhubaneswar – 3:0.

In January, the Blue Tigers went to the Asian Cup, which would have taken place in the summer if the tournament had not been postponed from China due to another coronavirus outbreak. The group, as for our continent, turned out to be very difficult – hence the three defeats: 0:2 from Australia, 0:3 from Uzbekistan and 0:1 from Syria. With zero points and the same number of goals scored, the Indians became the worst team in the game: Hong Kong also had a goal difference of -6, but they were able to hit their opponents at least once.

Such “success” led to the fact that the Indian team found itself in 117th place in the new, February FIFA rankings. The Indians, of course, are far from the top in football, but they have not fallen so low since March 2017. This situation does not inspire optimism, and we can only hope that it will become additional motivation for the players.

Current situation and prospects in qualifying for the World Cup

In case anyone doesn’t know: the second stage of selection for the World Cup is not the last; success in it means reaching the final part of the World Cup, but only the third round. In other words, the Indian team does not yet have the most formidable opponents, and a trip to North America still looks like a very distant prospect.

After two opening matches played in November (we remind you – a victory in Kuwait and a home defeat from Qatar), the Indian team scored 3 points and was in third place. Quartet A is led by the Qataris, who have not yet lost any points, followed by the Kuwaitis, who are ahead of the Indians only on goal difference. The top four is completed by Afghanistan, whose situation looks quite deplorable – just look at the goal difference of 1:12 in the two rounds that took place.

To qualify for the third stage of selection, you must take first or second place. The advantage of the Indian team is that it will have to play twice more with an absolute outsider – the Afghan team. Both matches will take place in March, and if you don’t take six points there, then you shouldn’t even mention any World Cup. If Qatar beats Kuwait home and away in a parallel double-header (and this is a realistic scenario!), the Blue Tigers will become second and gain a six-point advantage over the Kuwaitis.

If things turn out as described, Qatar will solve its problems after the fourth round, and Afghanistan will lose any chance of advancing further. Kuwait will remain in the fight only formally – India will have to score at least one point in the remaining two games or wait for any misfire of the competitor. Having managed to beat the Kuwaitis on the road, they need to catch at least a draw with them at home in June – and then the Blue Tigers will achieve their goal ahead of schedule. If they lose, they will have to hope that the Qataris will try out the second line-up in the final match and will not insist on their own victory over the Indians.

The Indian team has a chance to get into the third stage of selection, even after losing the last two matches with Kuwait and Qatar, but winning both matches against Afghanistan. For this you need:

  • Kuwait’s two defeats to Qatar;
  • the maximum positive goal difference, which after six rounds will be better than Kuwait’s.

Our forecast

Judging by the FIFA rating and the objective level of the teams, then in Group A of the second stage of selection there is Qatar, and there is everyone else. Among the three more modest teams, India looks preferable – it just needs to prove it on the field. After just two matches in March, the Blue Tigers may be half a step away from the coveted ticket to the third round, and they should be the ones to get it in the end.

But at the third stage it will definitely not be easy, but let’s not get too far ahead.