Asian World Cup draw captures the world’s attention

Written By Mark

Al-Annabi, Qatari football fans, and the Asian teams are awaiting today the draw for the third stage of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, which is taking place in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, and determines the path of 18 Asian teams who dream of reaching the World Cup, led by our team, which dreams of reaching the World Cup for the second time in a row after hosting and participating in the World Cup. Qatar 2022.
Al-Annabi competes with 18 teams for 8.5 seats in order to reach the next World Cup through 4 stages, starting with the third stage and ending with the sixth stage, represented by the FIFA special play-off tournament.
The draw for the third stage of the qualifiers will be held today, by distributing these 18 teams into 3 groups, with each group including 6 teams.
The first and second place teams in each group qualify directly for the World Cup (6 teams), while the teams that occupy third and fourth place in each group (6 teams) continue the qualifying journey in the fourth stage by distributing them across two groups, each group containing 3 teams, and the first place team in each group (two teams) qualifies directly for the World Cup, so the number of teams officially and directly qualified for the World Cup becomes 8 Asian teams.
The second-placed team from each group continues the journey by playing in the fifth stage (continental play-off), where they play each other, and the winner qualifies for the special play-off tournament organized by FIFA with the participation of 5 other teams: two teams from CONCACAF, an Asian team, an African team, and a team from South America and Oceania, where they compete for only two seats.

Road to the 18th

The 18 teams went through a difficult journey in the second stage (double stage) in order to reserve their place in the third stage of the World Cup qualifiers and officially qualify for the 2027 Asian Cup finals. The first and second places in each of the nine groups qualified for the third stage as follows:
= The first group: Qatar – Kuwait
= Second: Japan – North Korea
= Third: South Korea – China
=Fourth: Oman – Kyrgyzstan
= Fifth: Iran – Uzbekistan
=Sixth: Iraq – Indonesia
=Seventh: Jordan – Saudi Arabia
=Eighth: UAE – Bahrain
= Ninth: Australia – Palestine

The West is superior to the East

The third stage of the World Cup qualifiers witnessed a remarkable superiority of the teams from the West of the continent over the teams from the East of the continent, as 11 teams from the West qualified, including 9 Arab teams: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, the Emirates, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, in addition to Iran and Uzbekistan.
While the East of the continent is represented by 7 teams: Japan, South Korea, North Korea, China, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, and Australia.

Number of expected matches for each team

The number of matches that Asian teams play in order to reach the 2026 World Cup varies.
While the teams qualify directly in the third stage, the number of matches played by each team will be only 10 matches.
While the number of matches played by the six teams that continue in the fifth stage of the qualifiers will increase to 14 matches, as they will play 4 matches in this stage to qualify directly to the World Cup.
While the two teams that occupy second place in the two groups will play two additional matches in the fifth stage, bringing the total to 16 matches, and whoever passes the continental playoff qualifies for the special playoff tournament, in which they will also play two additional matches with the teams of other continents, bringing the total of their matches to 18 matches.

Annabi delegation in the draw

The Annabi delegation is participating in the draw ceremony taking place today. The delegation includes Mohammed Salem Al-Atawi, the team manager, Los Garcia, assistant to Marquez Lopez, the Annabi coach, and Saad Al-Kuwari, the media coordinator.
Sports journalist Colette Wong will present the draw ceremony, which will be supervised by Manolo Zuberia, chief official of the 2026 World Cup, in addition to FIFA and AFC officials and representatives of the teams participating in the qualifiers.
Two FIFA legends and Asian football legends will also participate in the draw, namely former Japanese international Shinji Okazaki and former Iranian international Mehdi Mahdavikia.

Qualifying dates

The teams in the group will face each other home and away during the third stage of the World Cup qualifiers and during the period from September 2024 to June 2025.
The fourth stage of the qualifiers will be held starting in October 2025, and finally the fifth stage, scheduled for November 2025.
The sixth and final stage (the special play-off tournament) will be held in March 2026.

The emergence of Palestine, Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan

Palestine, Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan are making their first appearance in the third round of the Asian qualifiers, having reached this stage of the qualifiers for the first time under the current joint qualifying system, which was implemented in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE.

The level of the teams according to their global classification

= First level: Japan (17), Iran (20), South Korea (22)
= Level 2: Australia (23), Qatar (35), Iraq (55)
= Third level: Saudi Arabia (56), Uzbekistan (62), Jordan (68)
= Fourth level: UAE (69), Oman (76), Bahrain (81)
= Level 5: China (88), Palestine (95), Kyrgyzstan (101)
= Level 6: North Korea (110), Indonesia (134), Kuwait (137)