FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers: Pakistan’s Journey and Asian Football Dynamics Unveiled


Pakistan embarks on a historic journey as they enter the group stage of the Asian qualifying rounds for the FIFA World Cup after a 22-year hiatus. The team faces a formidable opponent in Saudi Arabia, and despite being the lowest-ranked side, the experience is seen as a valuable learning opportunity. Saudi Arabia, under the guidance of coach Roberto Mancini, aims for a third consecutive World Cup appearance, emphasizing the importance of securing a top position in their group. The dynamics of this encounter highlight the contrasting aspirations of a seasoned team like Saudi Arabia and the relatively inexperienced but determined Pakistani side.

Pakistan’s Perspective:

Having triumphed over Cambodia in the initial qualifying round for the 2026 World Cup, Pakistan faces a tougher challenge in Group ‘G’ against Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Jordan. Placed at the 193rd spot in the FIFA rankings, the Pakistani team, led by coach Stephen Constantine, acknowledges the uphill battle. However, their participation signifies a significant milestone, reaching the second round of qualifying for the first time in over two decades. Despite the tough competition, the Pakistani team aims to surpass their previous group-stage performance in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers.

Saudi Arabia’s Ambitions:

Saudi Arabia, a football powerhouse in the Asian region, approaches the qualifiers with a focus on securing a top spot in Group ‘G.’ Coach Roberto Mancini, supported by former Ivorian star Yaya Toure, has crafted a young squad with a blend of talent and experience. The inclusion of 16-year-old forward Talal Haji adds a layer of excitement, but the team faces concerns regarding the fitness of Asian Player of the Year Salem Al Dawsari. The Saudis aim to build on their success at the last World Cup, where they defeated eventual champions Argentina, seeking a victory after a series of friendly game challenges under Mancini’s tenure.

Challenges and Opportunities:

For Pakistan, the journey is characterized by the spirit of having nothing to lose. This campaign is an opportunity to showcase their progress and potential on the international stage. However, memories of the 2002 World Cup qualifiers, where they finished at the bottom of their group, serve as a reminder of the challenges they face. The expanded slots for the 2026 World Cup provide added motivation, and the team aims to make a lasting impression.

Regional Powerhouses and Aspirations:

  • Diving into Asian Football Action:

The FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers are generating a lot of interest outside of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Japan and South Korea are coming onto the pitch with definite objectives. Japan is on a six-game winning streak and is aiming for its eighth World Cup appearance in a row. Meanwhile, South Korea, managed by Jurgen Klinsmann, hopes to capitalize on recent friendly victories in the qualifiers. The Asian football environment is evolving, and these sides seek to establish supremacy in the area rather than merely qualify for the World Cup.

  • Japan’s Winning Streak:

Japan is in top form, securing six wins in a row. This impressive run positions them as a strong contender for yet another World Cup appearance. Their journey to the last 16 in the previous World Cup in Qatar has fueled their determination to continue their success.

  • South Korea’s Ambitions with Klinsmann:

Under the guidance of Jurgen Klinsmann, South Korea is looking to make a mark in the qualifiers. Recent friendly matches saw them score 11 goals without a reply, showcasing their potential. The team is eager to carry this momentum into the qualifiers and solidify its standing in Asian football.

  • A Shifting Landscape:

Asian football is undergoing a transformation, and the qualifiers are the stage where teams showcase their prowess. It’s not just about securing a place in the World Cup; it’s about asserting dominance in the region. As these teams gear up for the challenges ahead, fans can expect thrilling matches and intense competition, shaping the future of football in Asia.

Mancini’s Influence and Saudi Arabia’s Recent Form:

Roberto Mancini, known for guiding Italy to the 2021 European Championships, brings a wealth of experience to the Saudi team. Despite three defeats and a draw in his initial friendly games in charge, Mancini’s strategic prowess is anticipated to shape Saudi Arabia’s performance in the qualifiers. The team’s recent form, coupled with Mancini’s guidance, sets the stage for an intriguing journey in Asian football.

Asia’s Football Landscape and World Cup Slots:

With the 2026 World Cup expanding to 48 teams, Asia’s slots have doubled, intensifying the competition. Regular finalists like Japan, Australia, and South Korea aim to secure their berths.

  • Japan’s Winning Streak:

Japan is on fire, winning six games in a row. Now, they’re gearing up for the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers, starting with a match against Myanmar in Group ‘B.’ Their fantastic performance in the last World Cup, where they reached the last 16, has fueled their determination to keep the success rolling.

  • South Korea’s Boost under Klinsmann:

South Korea, guided by Jurgen Klinsmann, has shown significant improvement. In recent friendly matches, they scored an impressive 11 goals, making them a team to watch in the upcoming qualifiers. The excitement is building as they kick off their campaign with high hopes for success.

Australia’s Strong Presence and Complications for Palestine:

Australia, having reached the last 16 in the 2022 World Cup, starts its campaign against Bangladesh. The Socceroos, alongside Lebanon and Palestine in Group ‘I,’ present a formidable challenge. However, the conflict between Israel and Hamas forces Palestine to play their home game against Australia on neutral ground in Kuwait. This geopolitical complexity adds a unique layer to the qualifiers.

Other Matches and Intricacies:

Iran faces Hong Kong, while Qatar, now guided by former Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, hosts Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s players reportedly consider boycotting the match, expressing dissatisfaction with the country’s football association. North Korea returns to World Cup qualifiers in 2019, meeting Syria on neutral ground in Saudi Arabia.


As the Asian qualifying rounds unfold, each match carries significance for the participating teams. For Pakistan, it’s a chance to redefine its footballing narrative, while Saudi Arabia aims to maintain its status as a regional football powerhouse. The broader context sees established teams like Japan and South Korea navigating their paths with an eye on securing berths in the expanded 2026 World Cup. The outcomes of these matches will shape the future of Asian football and determine which teams will showcase their skills on the global stage.

1 Comment

  1. Mahnoor Saeed
    23 November 2023


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