FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: What are India’s chances of qualifying for third round after Afghanistan defeat

A 2-1 defeat against Afghanistan in Guwahati on Tuesday dealt a major blow to India’s hopes of qualifying for the third qualifying round for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Does the defeat put India out of the competition?

No, India are currently second in their group. If Kuwait fails to win against Qatar later on Tuesday, it will remain that way after the fourth round of matches in this group. India will host Kuwait in June in a must-win match.

The group as it is:

What must India do to stay in contention to qualify for the next round?

The long, short and medium term situation is that India must defeat Kuwait. A draw is unlikely to be enough, given that Kuwait will face Afghanistan on the final day, and a victory by either of them in that match would take them ahead of India.

India were unbeaten in three matches against Kuwait in 2023, including a massive 1-0 win in Kuwait City in November at the start of this qualifying campaign which now seems distant, given the poor qualifying since then for the India.

India had drawn twice against Kuwait in the SAFF Championships in Bengaluru earlier in 2023, so it is clear that both teams are very evenly matched, so an India victory is not a foregone conclusion .

If India beats Kuwait, they will reach seven points and ensure that Kuwait cannot catch up with them. If Afghanistan lose to Qatar in their next match, then they will have to beat Kuwait by a large margin to catch India, with Ashley Westwood’s side’s goal difference badly affected by an 8-0 defeat. 1 against Qatar on the first day.

What if India draws against Kuwait?

They will need to get a result against Qatar in their final match of this round to qualify for the next one. If India loses to Qatar, the winner of Kuwait against Afghanistan will advance to the next round. If Kuwait and Afghanistan also draw, India will need a point against Qatar. The defeat against Afghanistan made it clear that Qatar will probably be a bit too much for India, although they will have qualified by then and could make some changes to their team.

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