News South Asia's Struggles in FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers: Nepal’s Early Exit

The Nepal football team, currently in the second round of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers, is set to play its last two matches against the UAE and Yemen on June 6 and 11, respectively.

Unfortunately, Nepal, part of Group H, is already out of the race for World Cup qualification. Nepal's performance in the qualifiers has been disheartening.

The team has not scored a single goal in the second round and has conceded 14 goals. They advanced to the second round after defeating Laos with an aggregate score of 2-1 in the first round, drawing 1-1 at home and winning 1-0 away. However, the second round has been tough, and Nepal has not managed to put up a strong performance.

In their group matches, Nepal lost 4-0 to the UAE in their first away match and 2-0 against Yemen in a home match. The team suffered further losses against Bahrain, with scores of 5-0 and 3-0.

Despite one of these matches being a home game, due to the failure of the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) to maintain proper standards, the game was played in Bahrain. This decision was a blow to the country and its fans, as it wasn’t even a neutral venue.

The failure to host the match in Nepal due to inadequate ground quality, lack of proper grass, and overall poor field conditions was disappointing. As a result, the second match against the UAE on June 6, which was supposed to be a home game, will also be played away from Nepal.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) deemed the stadium in Nepal unfit due to issues with floodlights, field conditions, and safety concerns. This situation highlights the negligence of both the National Sports Council and ANFA. Their lack of coordination and effective communication has shifted yet another match to a neutral venue, with the upcoming game expected to be held in Saudi Arabia. Nepal’s fans and football community are disheartened by these developments.

The continuous mismanagement and inability to host home matches reflect poorly on the governing bodies. It is crucial for ANFA and the National Sports Council to address these issues promptly to restore faith in Nepalese football and improve the conditions for future matches. As the FIFA World Cup 2026 is still a long way off, Nepal is already out of the race well before the final stages. We should at least aim to reach the third round to give a tough race, but Nepal couldn't even compete effectively in the second round, which shows we are at a very poor level in football.

Recently, Nepal played England C team in London and lost the match 2-0. Since then, there has been no information from ANFA about whether Nepal will play any friendlies to help prepare for the qualifiers against Yemen and UAE.

In the FIFA World Cup 2026, a record 48 countries will compete. From Asia, 8 countries have direct slots while one will have a playoff round, allowing a maximum of 9 countries from Asia to qualify. Unfortunately, the performance of all South Asian teams has been poor.

Only four countries from South Asia made it to the second round: Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan and Nepal are already out, and Bangladesh is also mathematically out of the running. India is the only team with some hope of qualifying for the next round, but they face tough matches ahead against Kuwait and Qatar.

By Sudip Dhakal

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