The UAE were unbeaten in the second round of qualifying
The UAE were unbeaten in the second round of qualifying Image Credit: UAEFA

The UAE have been awarded a favourable draw in the third round of AFC (Asian Football Confederation) 2026 World Cup qualifying, with the Whites set to resume their campaign against Qatar in September.

Paulo Bento’s side, who are looking to make just their second World Cup finals, were drawn to take on Iran, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and North Korea in Group A in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, avoiding the heavyweight quartet of Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan and South Korea – four of the continent’s six entrants from Qatar 2022.

Three of those Asian titans will go to battle in Group C after Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia were drawn together for the third successive time at this stage of qualification. Bahrain, China and Indonesia complete that group.

In Group B, South Korea will meet Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Palestine and Kuwait.

The winners and runners-up in each group qualify automatically for the 2026 finals in Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Match schedule Image Credit: AFC

This campaign offers an additional two automatic qualifying spots in the third round compared to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to the fact the 2026 showpiece has been expanded from 32 teams to 48.

The third and fourth place finishers in each group will advance to a fourth round which will determine the continent's two remaining guaranteed qualifiers.

The third round takes place, on a home-and-away basis, from September 2024 to June 2025.