UAE 2026 World Cup qualifiers


The UAE is set to compete against Iran, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and North Korea in Group A of the third round of Asia’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers. This phase marks a critical step for the UAE, aiming to secure a spot in the World Cup for the first time since their debut appearance in 1990.

The third round kicks off on September 5 and concludes on June 10. Eighteen Asian teams are vying for eight World Cup slots, divided into three groups of six. The group winners and runners-up will automatically qualify for the finals in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. The third and fourth place teams in each group will proceed to a fourth round, where six teams will compete for the remaining two automatic spots.

The UAE demonstrated impressive form in the second round of qualifiers, topping Group H with 16 points from six matches. Under the guidance of head coach Paulo Bento, the team will face Iran in their opening match of the third phase on September 10.

Iran, aiming for their fourth consecutive World Cup appearance and seventh overall, will compete against a Qatar team seeking to qualify through the preliminaries for the first time. Qatar, the reigning Asian Cup champions, participated in the 2022 World Cup as hosts but have not progressed to the finals through qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Group B sees Japan, four-time Asian champions and regular World Cup participants since 1998, drawn against familiar rivals Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, China, and Indonesia. Japan faced both Australia and Saudi Arabia in the final qualifying phase for the 2022 World Cup, with both teams eventually qualifying—Japan automatically and Australia via an intercontinental playoff.

South Korea, another consistent World Cup contender, will meet Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Palestine, and Kuwait in Group C. South Korea has qualified for every World Cup since 1986 and will be the favorites to advance from their group. However, they face a formidable challenge from Jordan, who recently defeated them in the semifinals of the Asian Cup.

China, striving to reach their first World Cup since their sole appearance in 2002, faces a tough journey in Group B. Competing against strong teams like Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Australia, China will need to overcome significant obstacles to secure a spot in the finals.

The stakes are high as the Asian teams prepare for the intense competition ahead. For the UAE, this third-round phase is an opportunity to revive their World Cup dreams and build on their solid performance in the earlier qualifiers. The team’s success will depend on maintaining their form and overcoming strong opponents in a bid to join the global football elite at the 2026 World Cup.

As the tournament progresses, football fans across Asia will be watching closely, hoping their teams can navigate the challenges and secure a place on the world stage. The journey to the 2026 World Cup promises to be a thrilling and competitive spectacle, with each match bringing teams one step closer to their ultimate goal.

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By- Sahiba Suri

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