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FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Top five AFC teams who did not qualify for third round of 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Published at :June 16, 2024 at 3:26 PM
Modified at :June 16, 2024 at 3:26 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF media)

Uttiyo Sarkar


Syria has the highest rank among the non-qualified AFC teams.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers’ second round came to a thrilling end recently. At the end of it, 18 teams were able to progress to the third round of the qualifiers and take a step closer to securing qualification for the major tournament. However, for the other 18 teams, their World Cup dreams ended at the second round.

A few teams were rather unlucky not to be able to secure a top-two place in their group and move on to the next round. They missed out by the difference of a few meager points or goal-difference, dealing them the most gutting blow.

With the second round now over, here we look at the five major AFC teams who did not qualify for the third round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

5. India

The Blue Tigers were dealt a cruel blow in their dreams of making it to the third round of qualifying for the first time. After winning their first game in the second round against Kuwait, the team had a lot of hope of making it into the next round. But, they failed to win a single game after that, only being able to play out draws against Afghanistan and Kuwait.

India had an outside chance of securing a top-two spot in their group in the final game against Qatar and even led briefly against the AFC Asian Cup champions. However, a controversial goal allowed Qatar to come back and get the win. Kuwait won their final game too, helping them jump over India and rob the Blue Tigers of a spot in the third round.

4. Lebanon

Lebanon were given a decent chance of making it past the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers after they got Palestine and Bangladesh in their group, along with giants Australia. However, they just couldn’t get past second gear in their games. Lebanon’s only win in their six matches came in the 4-0 thrashing of Bangladesh.

But, that was in the final match of the group, at a time when Australia and Palestine had both secured qualification into Round 3. Lebanon failed to defeat Bangladesh at their home and couldn’t defeat or score past Palestine in their two matches. Now, Lebanon will have to focus on qualifying for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup instead.

3. Tajikistan

Tajikistan had an impressive 2024 AFC Asian Cup campaign in which they went all the way to the quarter-finals, only to lose to Jordan. The Crowns have climbed into the top 100 of the FIFA rankings, but have seen their dreams of qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup crushed. That is because Tajikistan were placed in a really tough group in the second round that had Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Despite that, the Crowns had an impressive start – holding Jordan to a draw before thrashing Pakistan in their first two games. But, then they lost their match away to Saudi Arabia by a narrow 1-0 margin and could only draw the home game.

They also ended up losing 3-0 to Jordan in their recent second round clash, before ending with a 3-0 win over Pakistan. However, both Jordan and Saudi Arabia finished on 13 points – more than five points ahead of third-placed Tajikistan.

2. Syria

Syria had a shocking second round qualifiers campaign and are among the higher-ranked AFC teams not to be involved in the third round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. That is because they might’ve taken the threat posed by North Korea and Myanmar a bit too lightly.

Syria lost both their games against Japan, but they failed to tap into their best in the remainder of the four matches. They did defeat North Korea and Myanmar at home, but their away form was quite woeful.

The Syrian team were held to a draw by Myanmar and suffered a 1-0 loss in their penultimate round two qualifiers clash. Ultimately, North Korea won three of their six games – defeating Myanmar both times – and ensured that Syria would not make it to the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers.

1. Thailand

Thailand were arguably the most unlucky team in the AFC region of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers’ second round. Placed in a group with South Korea, China and Singapore – the Thailand side fancied their chances of making it to the third round pretty comfortably.

They proved their quality as a pretty solid football team by making it to the AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 earlier this year too. Thailand, however, struggled with inconsistency in their second round qualifying clashes.

They picked up eight from a possible maximum of 18 points, winning both games against Singapore and playing out draws against South Korea and China. Their inability to defeat the Chinese team in either of their two games came back to haunt them.

Both Thailand and China finished with eight points in Group C with the same (0) goal-difference. Ultimately, China’s superior head-to-head record (having defeated Thailand in one of their two games) helped them pip the Thai side.

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