5 Reasons why India can qualify for FIFA World Cup 2026
Football's biggest showdown event, The FIFA World Cup, is on its course in Russia. After three weeks full of shocks, thrills and upsets, it is left to 8 teams to battle it out amongst themselves to lift International Football's most coveted trophy. There is no question to the popularity of the sport and the World Cup in India, with loyal and devoted fans ardently supporting their teams. 'The Football Fever' spreads all over the country in the same fashion as it does on the Cup-playing countries, infact, on a larger magnitude, with houses, clubs, and community halls turning into stadiums.
However, one question which excruciatingly pains the Indian fans every four years is - 'When will India play the FIFA World Cup? ' The closest India came to play at the sporting event was back in 1950; however, 68 years down the line, are yet to make a debut at football's highest level.
Though the nation played at its first FIFA event last year, the U17 FIFA World Cup, India are yet to play a match at the senior level of the tournament. The Indian fans have been used to cheering for foreign teams for a while now, however, it might soon be a thing of the past. India may have their own team competing at the highest tier of the game, and support them from the stands.
Let's have a look at the factors strengthening India's claim for a berth in FIFA World Cup 2026:
#1 48-Team Tournament
The FIFA Council took an epoch-making decision in its meeting at Zurich on 10th January 2017, a move which would define the legacy and sporting tradition of the tournament for the upcoming decades. The Council unanimously decided to make the World Cup a 48-team tournament, which opens up an unprecedented opportunity for nations to exhibit their skills at the global level. While the move was heavily criticized by several organisations and experts associated with the sport, it turns out to be a blessing for nations to mark their presence at international football's biggest extravaganza.
On 9th May 2017, the FIFA Council approved the Confederation-wise slot allocation a couple of days before the 67th FIFA Congress, in a meeting at Bahrain. This allocation provides for an intercontinental playoff involving six teams (up from 4 in the current edition). This playoff comes apart from the Confederation-wise allocation, unlike the current system where it was included therein itself.
The number of slots for AFC (Asian Football Confederation), of which India is a part, have increased from 4.5 to 8. India has also qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 2019, which will provide them with a chance to know where they stand among the best of Asia and formulate further strategies accordingly.
Thus, the inclusion of more teams and higher slots present a chance to the 'Blue Tigers' to claim their spot in the Finals.