Luck favours Vietnam, placing them in Group F alongside the Philippines, Iraq, and the winner of the play-off match between Indonesia and Brunei (yet to be held). (Photo: VFF)
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on July 27 conducted the official draw ceremonies of the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 and Round 2 of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027.
Due to Vietnam's world ranking of 95 and being among the top 15 in Asia, they were exempted from the first qualifying round and directly advanced to the second round.
In this stage, luck favoured Vietnam, placing them in Group F alongside the Philippines, Iraq, and the winner of the play-off match between Indonesia and Brunei (yet to be held). This group is considered relatively easy for the team.
According to the AFC, the 10 winners of Round 1 proceed to Round 2, where they are joined by the remaining 26 teams. These 36 sides will be drawn into nine groups of four, competing against each team in a home-and-away round-robin format, between November 2023 and June 2024.
All nine group winners and the respective runners-up will advance to the third round of World Cup qualifying, and at the same time seal their places at the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™.
The draw for the third round of the global showpiece in 2026 will be conducted in 2024, where the 18 teams will be divided into three groups of six; the top two from each group will qualify directly for the FIFA World Cup 2026. The other two direct AFC entrants will be determined in the fourth round of World Cup qualifying, with one more possible berth available via an Intercontinental Playoff.
The 2026 World Cup finals will take place in the US, Canada, and Mexico, featuring the first-ever participation of 48 teams, with 8.5 spots allocated for Asia./.