FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers Third Round explained.

The second round of double qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup concluded on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, marking the beginning of two new chapters in Asian football.

2027 Asian Cup Qualification:

  • 18 teams secured their spots in the 2027 Asian Cup by finishing first or second in the second-round groups.
  • These 18 teams will also participate in the decisive third round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

The Third Round of 2026 World Cup Qualifiers:

  • In this stage, the 18 qualified teams will compete in a group system, with each group containing 6 teams.
  • The top two teams from each group will directly qualify for the 2026 World Cup.
  • For the first time in history, the Asian continent will have 8 seats at the World Cup.
  • The remaining 6 teams will vie for the last two spots through a fourth round.
  • The fourth round will feature two groups, each comprising 3 teams. The top team from each group will secure direct qualification to the World Cup.

Draw Date:

  • The draw for the third round of the 2026 Asian World Cup qualifiers is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the headquarters of the Asian Football Confederation.


The following teams finished first or second in their respective second-round groups:


The seeding for the draw was based on the FIFA Men’s World Rankings on 20 June 2024 (shown in parentheses below).

Each group will contain one team from each of the six pots.

Pot 1Pot 2Pot 3
 Japan (17) Iran (20) South Korea (22) Australia (23) Qatar (35) Iraq (55) Saudi Arabia (56) Uzbekistan (62) Jordan (68)
Pot 4Pot 5Pot 6
 United Arab Emirates (69) Oman (76) Bahrain (81) China (88) Palestine (95) Kyrgyzstan (101) North Korea (110) Indonesia (134) Kuwait (137)

Best case Scenario for Iran

While teams in pots 2 and 3 can spring surprises for the three leading Teams, Japan, Iran and Korea Republic, the other teams are by no means easy opponents either. However, based on ranking, location and current form, Team Melli can do with a comfortable group. The best that Iran can get in the draw next week is this group.

These teams are quite familiar for Iran and the biggest advantage will be travelling time. Three of the teams are neighbours, while the other two (Jordan and Kyrgzysran) are 2 1/2 hrs to flying time Amman while Bishkek is 3 hrs 15 minutes.
In case Iran gets North Korea and/or Australia, it will be a logistical nightmare.

“Discipline is a top priority in Team Melli,” says Rezaei

In a short interview with Khabar Varzeshi, Rahman Rezaei, the assistant coach of Team Melli, highlighted the importance of discipline in Team Melli and how crucial it is for the overall success of the team.

Rezaaei was asked by the reporter “In the previous camp, Mohammad Hossein Kananizadegan was not invited due to disciplinary issues. Is he on the blacklist for the coming camps or not?”

“Disciplinary issues are a top priority for Team Melli’s coaching staff, headed by Amir Ghalenoei. In any case, in the previous camp, it was decided that Kananizadegan would be excluded from the group. Regarding whether he will be added to our team in the new camp or not, it is all up to the direct opinion of the respected head coach. I would like to emphasize again that Ghalenoei has a special emphasis on maintaining order and discipline in the national team because this issue is directly related to the fate of the team. You must have noticed, in the recent games of the Omid team in the Olympic qualifiers, the yellow cards were the difference between us qualifying or losing the chance to create history.”

“Disciplinary issues cost our football dearly. Previous experiences should be a lesson for us. Lately, football rules have become stricter than before, and both AFC and FIFA are very strict on the conduct of players and coaches, hence we attach high importance to it and should have zero tolerance for indiscipline no matter how important a player is for the team. We continue to advocate good behavior and discipline even in training and around the camps.”

This is an encouraging development for Team Melli’s mentality but it remains to be seen if this strict discipline and behavior will be implemented in competition matches. Historically, lax discipline has been the Achilles heel of Iranian football and that includes tactical discipline on top of behavior on and off the field. The former coach of Team Melli, Carlos Queiroz has done a fine job creating a strict disciplinarian environment in the camp. That discipline waned slightly during Dragan Skocic’s tenure.
it remains to be seen if Amir Ghalenoei is serious about this vital issue. Domestic coaches are known to be more tolerant of players’ indiscretions as evident in the Omid team in recent weeks.

FIFA Ranking September 2023: Iran in 21st place.

Iran climbed one place in the latest FIFA World Ranking to 21st ahead of Peru, Sweden, and Ukraine while Japan’s impressive run continues with rank 19 just ahead of Senegal and Iran.

Japan is still maintaining the lead in AFC with Iran, South Korea, Australia, and Saudi Arabia following behind.

RKTeamTotal PointsPrevious Points+/-Positions
21IR IranIran1561.261556.594.67
26Korea RepublicKorea Republic1533.011529.33.71
57Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia1412.821421.46-8.64
70United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates1342.431336.286.15
80China PRChina PR1297.251304.78-7.53

FIFA Ranking – June 2023, Iran 22nd and Japan top of Asia.

Iran gained two places in the FIFA Ranking to climb to 22nd place in the World ahead of Ukraine and Sweden.

Japan’s National football team remained firmly at the top of the FIFA Asian ranking increasing the gap from Iran, which is in second place in the latest ranking published by FIFA today.

three wins for Iran in the CAFA Nations Cup 2023 which was hosted by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan helped the Team Melly tally, however, Japan has done slightly better with 7.37 points increase to Iran’s 3.36. Australia and South Korea swapped places with the latter going down one place to fourth.

raw on FIFA Day in March, Iran closed the gap very slightly with Japan which solidly occupies the top place despite losing 4.5 points. South Korea, Australia, and Saudi Arabia follow next.

Total Points
Previous Points

1588.59 7.37
IR Iran
1553.23 3.36
1532.79 -2.34
Korea Republic
Korea Rep.
1536.01 -6.71
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
1421.46 0
1388.61 4.91
1347.84 -2.63
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
1336.28 0
1333.54 -1.09
1318.36 9.22

FIFA Ranking : No changes in AFC teams

Iran remained the second team in Asia after leaders Japan in the latest ranking published by FIFA yesterday.

With one win and a draw on FIFA Day in March, Iran closed the gap very slightly with Japan which solidly occupies the top place despite losing 4.5 points. South Korea, Australia, and Saudi Arabia follow next.


Total Points
Previous Points

1593.08 -4.49
IR Iran
1551.73 1.50
Korea Republic
Korea Republic
1539.49 -3.48
1533.97 -1.18
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
1438.13 -16.67
1393.56 -4.95
1342.39 5.45
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
1338.48 -2.20
1321.24 12.30
1312.64 5.72


Esteghlal out of AFC Champions League !

The never-ending saga of humiliation of Iranian football hit another low when Esteghlal one of the two bipolar clubs of Iran was kicked out of the AFC Champions League competition for the second season in a row after failing to comply with the competition’s regulations and maintaining its professional status.

The club which is owned and managed by the Government of Iran has failed to submit proof of compliance in time plus the failure of the club to settle a dispute with a former Italian coach, Andrea Stramaccioni. In November 2020, The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) ordered Esteghlal to pay 1,350,000 euros to its former coach Andrea Stramaccioni. The Italian coach had a very brief, but eventful, spell at Esteghlal from June to December 2019.

The AFC’s decision to exclude Esteghlal from this season’s AFC Champions League was a bitter pill to swallow not only among its own huge supporters base but also among the rest of the Iranian fans. Many experts believe it is a warning sign for football in general as incompetent management and the derelict hierarchy at the top have become a recipe for a disaster negatively affecting every corner of Iranian football.

 The main culprit of this event is the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the authority which is directly responsible for Esteghlal and Persepolis including the appointment of their chairmen and board members plus, more importantly, the full financial backing.

Regardless of who was and is the CEO of Esteghlal, the club needed money to be able to solve problems including the payment and contractual obligation to staff members, players, and coaches. Promises were also given to Fathollahzadeh, who was recently appointed as the boss of the club and is reported to have accepted this responsibility on the condition of full financial support from the ministry and the clearing of all debts. That is another regrettable aspect of Iran’s football politics, false promises and outright lies which are quite common all across.

The ministry, however, turned its back on Esteghlal, an organization that has no other means of generating revenue in a country where the official broadcaster refuses to pay broadcast rights on national TV. The ambivalence and procrastination by the authorities in solving the problem have caused the fans to be more upset and more vocal with the officials of the Ministry of Sports. This issue has made them take a stand against the culprits in the stands of Azadi stadium where chants against the ministry and the government were repeatedly and frequently heard.

Currently, Esteghlal is coached by Portuguese coach Ricardo Sá Pinto. The two times winner of the older version of the AFC top club competition is still in the title run with a close contest from Sepahan and Persepolis, however, the Portuguese have not been paid for many months and despite his professionalism, at one stage, he like the rest of foreign coaches, will draw the line and calls it a quit. It is a familiar pattern in Iran’s football.

The coaches then file a case with FIFA and almost all such cases end up with the Iranian sides losing and paying hefty fines on top of all the dues for the coaches.

A vicious circle that, unfortunately, has no sign of ending.

Management issues are slowly but surely destroying the very essence of Iran’s football. A pride footballing nation that has achieved everything in Asian football including an unprecedented three consecutive times winning the Asian Cup, qualification to the Olympics (3+1), and winning four Asian Youth titles. That was all before the revolution though

The last time Iran won the Asian Cup was in 1976 (47 years)

The last time Iran won the Asian Youth Cup (U20)  was in 1976 (47 years)

The last time Iran qualified for the Olympics football competition was in 1980 (43 years)

The saving grace remains Team Melli’s excellent record in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup.

Russia negotiating with UEFA and FIFA on their future.

The Russian Football Union (RFU) is negotiating with FIFA and UEFA to retain eligibility to participate in competitions with friendlies already lined up.

The Russian team will play a friendly match against Iran in Tehran on March 23 and are also due to face Iraq on March 26 in the city of Saint Petersburg.

They will also be participating in the Championship of the Central Asian Football Association, which will involve Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan, and is due to be held from June 9 to 21 in Bishkek and Tashkent.

FIFA and UEFA were both on the list of sports associations that banned the Russians for the invasion of Ukraine on February 21 2022.

The ban was imposed exactly one week later on February 28.

The Russian national team was due to face Poland in a qualifier for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, with the winner going on to face Sweden for a spot in the finals, but the ban took effect before the match and Poland got a pass through the round.

Russia were disqualified from the 2022 World Cup when they were two wins away from claiming a spot ©Getty Images
Russia were disqualified from the 2022 World Cup when they were two wins away from claiming a spot ©Getty Images


Since the ban, the Russian national football team have participated in three friendlies, defeating Kyrgyzstan 2-1 in Bishkek and drawing with Tajikistan in Dushanbe and Uzbekistan in Tashkent, with both matches ending goalless.

Denis Rogachev, the RFU deputy secretary general, spoke on the current state of the national team in a meeting of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports.

“The activity of the national team is not frozen,” Rogachev said, as reported by Russia’s official state news agency TASS.

“It has suffered greatly, we do not experience a flow of people who want to play with us. This is a very difficult negotiation process, negotiations are underway to participate in the Championship of the Central Asian Football Association in June. We have retained corporate rights to participate in FIFA and UEFA, but we are negotiating with colleagues about a phased return to competition.”

“I can’t add anything new. ”

The RFU had an appeal to return to FIFA and UEFA rejected by the CAS in May 2022 ©Getty Images
The RFU had an appeal to return to FIFA and UEFA rejected by the CAS in May 2022 ©Getty Images

“A working group has been created, a negotiation process is underway with UEFA and FIFA on a phased return. “A FIFA Congress was held in Africa, and there will be elections of the UEFA President, which we will attend.

“The process of restoring our rights as a priority option provides for keeping us in European football, but all scenarios are being considered.” The RFU attempted to appeal to overturn the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but failed to meet the deadline for the filing of the complaint. The CAS already rejected the return of Russia to tournaments in May 2022 after a majority vote by members on the matter.

The 2018 World Cup hosts will be looking to return to international competitions, as well as competitions for their club teams such as the UEFA Champions League.

Mehdi Taj “FIFA still investigating Iran-Lebanon match incidents.”

The President of Iran’s football federation FFIRI Mehdi Taj said that the verdict on the controversial Iran-Lebanon match in Mashad in World Cup 2022 qualifiers is still under investigation by FIFA.

According to Taj, the case is still open with FIFA.

“Our case is in the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and the President of FIFA can only postpone it. He has no authority or influence beyond that,” Taj declared “the jurisdiction and the verdict is only in the hands of the Disciplinary Committee.”

Infantino helped Iran before the start of the FIFA World Cup 2022 to prevent what would have been a serious risk of Team Melli being sanctioned. After the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup, the serious violation committed by the government and security forces at and around Imam Reza Stadium will be addressed. The violations include preventing females from entering the stadium despite carrying official tickets, using undue force in doing so, and serious overcrowding and lack of safe practices and crowd control measures at entry and exits of the venue.

FIFA Disciplinary Committee must issue a ruling in this regard, which could be anything from depriving Team Melli of playing home games in Iran to heavy fines or both.

There could also be other ramifications for FFIRI as, despite the promises given to FIFA about females being allowed into stadiums, the hardliners and religious hierarchy are not happy with such a ruling and have defied FIFA and forced their own will on the subject matter. Suspension of Iran from FIFA and AFC is a possibility, though remote.

Beach Soccer Players under the threat of presecution.

Iran’s national beach soccer team which won the Intercontinental Cup yesterday (Sunday) by defeating Brazil in the final match 2-1 is being threatened with persecution on their return to Iran!!

Following that victory, the fourth in Iran’s history in this championship, the Beach Soccer Committee of the Football Federation FFIR published a mixed congratulatory and threatening statement
We congratulate the Islamic Republic of Iran’s national beach soccer team in the presence of the Supreme Leader of the Revolution (…), the martyrs’ family, and the noble people of Iran. This achievement was the result of the collective efforts of the clubs and the national team, and at the head of the Football Federation, and it has caused the ability of Iran’s sports elites to be displayed in the international arena once again. Although some of the foolish opportunists planned to make these successes appear less pale by their presence around the arena to disrupt the focus of the national team, fortunately, they did not succeed. Obviously, based on the regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Olympic Code of Ethics, and the rules of the World Football Federation (FIFA) in regard to the observance of the principles governing the sport of football and avoiding any political demonstration in sports fields, we will deal with persons who have disrespected the professional and sports ethics in this regard. have not complied with the principles, it will be handled according to the regulations. We firmly believe that the beach football committee will not give up any efforts in the way of sustainable growth and development of football, in order to continue to be proud in the international arena, according to the road map of our country, and we firmly declare that we are committed according to the national interests of our country. Let’s walk the path.

This intimidating message serves as a threat to the members of the Iranian Beach Soccer Team members who have avoided celebration as a mark of respect for the victims who have lost their lives and the thousands of Iranian that are behind brutal regime bars in the aftermath of protests following Mahsa Amini’s death at the hand of Morality police.

This is the first time that the FFIRI, which comprehensively operates as a government organization disguised as a football federation, has blatantly and officially published such threats against sportsmen and women who dare to disagree with the theocratic regimes and its strict allegiance to the rule of the clergy.

Now Shakhtar sulking CEO is demanding!!

The Daily Mail has reported a Ukrainian team by the name of Shakhtar demanding FIFA to kick Iran out of the World Cup and replace it with Ukraine !!!!

The audacity of some is beyond belief!

The Daily Mail’s report says:

Shakhtar Donetsk’s CEO Sergei Palkin wants Ukraine to replace Iran at the World Cup amid reports Tehran has supplied Russia with drones to aid their invasion.

The Ukrainian capital city Kyiv was stuck by Iranian-made ‘kamikaze’ drones deployed by Russian forces last week.

President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed seven such drones had been shot down, while the United States said Iran has deployed military experts in Russian-occupied Crimea.

Footage emerged of police officers shooting down what local authorities described as an Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Kyiv.

Iran has pleaded its ‘neutrality’ in the conflict but Ukraine has already downgraded diplomatic ties with Tehran and now the chief of one of its leading football teams has demanded further punishment.

The Iranians open their World Cup campaign in Qatar against England on November 21 and also face the United States and Wales in Group B.

In a statement released on Shakhtar’s Twitter feed, Palkin wrote: ‘While the Iranian leadership will have fun watching their national team play at the World Cup, Ukrainians will be killed by Iranian drones and Iranian missiles.

The chief executive of Shakhtar Donetsk has called for Ukraine to replace Iran at the World Cup!!

Our Take…

So…it seems that the UIkranian’s motive has very little to do with any drones as the motive is for their team, which has lost in the play-off in the qualifiers, to get a free out-of-jail card similar to the Italian claims. These people have no virtue or honor and have mistaken football for the mafia and the cartel by trying to swindle their way into the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

As for the Ukrainian club, with zero achievements in its international history, the devious CEO of that club, if he had an ounce of honor, should have advised the Ukrainian national team players to engage themselves in defending their country and supporting the needy in their homeland, rather than spending a couple of weeks enjoying a first-class treat and luxury life in Doha while their families and friends are suffering under deadly attacks.

Of course, every team will get a minimum of two million dollars just being in Doha, perhaps that was not considered by the Ukrainian CEO as a motive for his cowardice demand, or has it?


The reader’s comments below that have not been moderated and are from the daily mail article.

WilliamsNike, Hub City, United States, 10 minutes ago

Lol oh go away Ukraine. Nobody cares

Why mix sport with politics? Football is one of the few pleasures left in Iran, that women can also enjoy. Punishing the footballers will not bother the Iranian Government in the slightest.

Jesus_Christ_is_Lord, Manchester, United Kingdom, 47 minutes ago

kick politics out of football…or does it only favor European football teams…remember the 2010 incident with the Togo team, when the government tried to step in and got banned for a few tournaments??