Last year will be one that lives long in the memory of Arabic football, as Morocco defied all expectations to reach the final four of the 2022 World Cup. It was also a pivotal moment in the history of Arabian football, as the competition was held in Qatar. However, football is a sport that never stands still, and there will now be sights set on the future and how national sides from the continent can continue to outperform their favorable odds available at arabwinners, home to the best sports betting sites in the Middle East. But what does the qualifying campaign look like for Arabic teams looking to reach the 2026 World Cup?
Seedings Revealed For Qualification
The seedings for the qualification process to determine the nations representing the confederation at the 2026 World Cup were released last week. The teams ranked higher than the top nations will begin their qualification campaign in the opening two rounds.
These matches will also hold extra significance, as they will be used to determine the sides that will compete in the AFC Asian Cup in 2027. Matches in the opening round will be played in October, with the ten matches being played across two legs.
How Qualifying Works
The ten teams that land victory in their ties in the opening round will then proceed through to the second round of qualifying. In this stage, the remaining 26 teams will enter the qualification tournament. These second-round matches will then determine the 36 nations that will reach the next stage of qualifying. This round is played in a round-robin format, with four teams in each of the nine groups.
Each nation will play at home and away against the teams in their respective groups, with the top two from each proceeding through to the third round of qualification for the World Cup. Furthermore, the teams that finish in the top two will secure their places at the 2027 Asian Cup, which will be staged in Saudi Arabia.
Matchups In First Round
Many of the outsiders for World Cup qualification will compete in the first round in mid-October. Afghanistan will compete against Mongolia, while Bangladesh will have home-field advantage for their return tie against the Maldives. There are also tricky opening-round matchups for Singapore, Yemen, and Macau as they come up against Guam, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, respectively. Pakistan against Cambodia appears to be one of the standout ties in the first round, while Chinese Taipei will collide against Timor-Leste.
Brunei will face a challenging assignment against Indonesia, while Hong Kong will be favored to overcome Bhutan. The final first-round clash will see Nepal and Laos collide.
Nations That Enter In Second Round
The second round is the most competitive of World Cup qualification, and it will also determine the nations that will be competing in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup in 2027. The draw for the group stage has already been made, and there will be some competitive fixtures for fans to look ahead to. Qatar will be looking to reach their second straight World Cup after hosting the 2022 tournament, but they will likely face competition from India and Kuwait for a place in the top two.
Japan enjoyed an excellent run at the 2022 World Cup and will be heavily favored to progress from group B, as they are pitted against North Korea and Syria. South Korea appears to be in one of the more testing groups, as they will need to overcome Thailand and China to reach the third round of qualification.
Oman, Kyrgyzstan, and Malaysia will play in Group D, as the two nations will cause a shock and potentially plot their route to a first-ever appearance at the World Cup. Iran will be favored in Group E, while it could be challenging to overlook Iraq and Vietnam qualifying from Group F.
Saudi Arabia will be the favorite to reach the third round from Group G, while UAE and Bahrain will compete for the top spot in Group H. Australia will play in Group I as the national side looks to avoid a shock elimination at the hands of Palestine and Lebanon.
The road to the World Cup is mapped out for national sides in the AFC region, and it promises to be a fascinating battle between the top teams to secure their spot. All national teams will have their sights set on a dream appearance at the 2026 World Cup, which will be staged across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.