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The Indian national football team played out a goalless draw against Kuwait on Thursday, June 6 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.

The game marked Sunil Chhteri’s final appearance for the Blue Tigers as the footballing legend called time on his international career.

The 0-0 result wasn’t something India wanted as a win would put them on the brink of qualification for the next round of the qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup to be held in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The draw means India find themselves second in the Group A standings of the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers with five points from just as many games.

At the time of writing, Qatar were on 12 points, followed by India on five points, and third-placed Kuwait and fourth Afghanistan on four points each. 

While Qatar and Afghanistan have played four games and have two remaining, India and Kuwait have played five times and have one remaining Group A fixture each.  

The top two teams from every group are set to make it through to the third round of the qualifiers besides also securing direct qualification to the AFC Asian Cup 2027.

The fact that the 2026 World Cup is set to be the biggest one yet with the tournament expanding from 32 teams to 48 means that the addition of teams from all confederations has given India a greater chance of qualifying although the draw against Kuwait is a major setback to the team’s aspiration.

India’s final match in Group A of the FIFA World Cup 2026 AFC qualifiers third round is Asian heavyweights Qatar.

Needless to say, the Blue Tigers will face an uphill battle to get a win against Qatar away from home in their bid to advance to the next round of the qualifiers.

However, they will still be hoping for a miracle and here we have a look at how India can still qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2026?

How can India qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2026?

India can still qualify for FIFA World Cup 2026 although the chances of that happening are slim to say the least. 

As already mentioned, India will have to finish among the top two teams of their group in the ongoing round of qualifying to make it to the next round of World Cup qualification, where they would have to finish among the top two teams of their group once again to progress further.

That said, the Blue Tigers making it to the next round of World Cup qualification isn’t a given and their chances took a hit following their draw against Kuwait. 

They still can make it to the next round though if the below mentioned scenarios transpire over the course of the remaining matches in the group.

The simplest way for India to qualify is for them to beat powerhouses Qatar away from home in their final Group A match. 

Granted that while this happening is highly unlikely, a win over Qatar would give India eight points and that would mean that should Afghanistan lose any of the remaining two Group A games, the Blue Tigers would progress to the next round of qualifiers.

Another situation by which India can qualify for the next round of qualifiers is if they go on to lose against Qatar but Afghanistan lose to Qatar and then draw against Kuwait. This would see India edge Afghanistan on goal difference for qualification to the next round.

Lastly, if India draw against Qatar and end up with six points while Afghanistan lose and draw their two remaining games then the Blue Tigers once again make it through to the next round on goal difference.

Meanwhile, Kuwait can still ruin India’s chances of progressing to the next round as well if they beat Afghanistan and the Blue Tigers lose or draw against Qatar. 

A win for Kuwait over Afghanistan would see them pip India to the next round on points and the situation would be the same if Afghanistan beat Kuwait as well. 

The caveat of India not beating Qatar, of course, applies to this scenario since a win over the Asian champions is highly unlikely.

While there are chances of India still progressing to the next round of qualifiers, it is worth mentioning that if Kuwait or Afghanistan manage to get positive results in their remaining Group A games, India’s chances of making it to World Cup 2026 would end in heartbreak.

Photo credit: Alamy

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