The Indian men's national team is experiencing a remarkable resurgence under the guidance of their head coach, Igor Stimac. Since the beginning of the year, the Blue Tigers have demonstrated outstanding quality of football, which has reflected in their results.

The transformation of the Blue Tigers have seen them clinch three consecutive titles and remain unbeaten in all 11 matches they have played in the calendar year, securing victory in seven games and drawing four.

During their journey, India cruised past Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan to clinch the Hero Tri-Nation title before overcoming a resilient Lebanon in the Hero Intercontinental Cup.

In the following SAFF Championship, India faced a sterner test in the form of Lebanon and Kuwait, but the Blue Tigers successfully neutralized both Middle Eastern nations to clinch their ninth title.

As a result of their impressive performance, India has climbed to the 99th place in the latest FIFA rankings, released on July 20. More significantly, the Blue Tigers have maintained a position higher than Lebanon, courtesy of their performance against them in recent encounters. Thus, Stimac’s men have stuck to the 18th spot in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

But what does this mean for India and how it benefits them?

AFC jointly holds both the FIFA World Cup qualification and the AFC Asian Cup qualification. The FIFA World Cup 2026 will feature 48 teams for the first time, with the AFC receiving eight confirmed spots, and one additional team will get a chance to qualify for the World Cup through a play-off tournament.

A total of 45 nations from the AFC region will compete for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. Securing the 18th place in the continental ranking section means India has now confirmed its position in Pot 2 and has directly qualified for the second round.

The top nine teams in the AFC will be placed in Pot 1, while the nations ranked between 10 to 18 will find themselves in Pot 2. The third Pot will include teams ranked from 19 to 27, while the bottom 18 AFC nations will feature in Round 1, with nine of the winners making their way into Pot 4 for the Round 2 draws.

Thus, securing Pot 2 means India will only have to face one higher-ranked team in the qualifier round. In contrast, two other teams will be grouped alongside them from Pot 3 and Pot 4, meaning they will have an inferior ranking than India.

In short, India’s outstanding performance have not only earned them three titles but has also secured them a favourable position in the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers and also in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

Being in Pot 2 gives them an advantage by reducing the number of higher-ranked teams they will face, increasing their chances of securing a spot in these prestigious tournaments.

2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup: Confirmed Pots from AFC Region

Pot 1: Japan, Iran, Australia, Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

Pot 2: Uzbekistan, China, Jordan, Bahrain, Syria, Vietnam, Palestine, Kyrgyz Republic, and India.

Pot 3: Lebanon, Tajikistan, Thailand, Korea DPR, Philippines, Malaysia, Kuwait, Turkmenistan, and Hong Kong.

Pot 4: Nine winners from Round 1 ties

When will the draw take place?

The official draw ceremony for the preliminary qualification rounds 1 and 2 of the Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2026 will take place on July 27, 2023. The draw will be held at 01:30 PM IST at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Watch the Draw Live here: