Nepal host Laos todayThe two sides are meeting in Kathmandu in the first leg of the first round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup Qualification.
Nepal national men’s football team will host Laos at the Dasharath Stadium on Thursday in the first leg of the first round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup Qualification.
Nepal will be clear favourites at home against the Southeast Asian nation provided their past head-to-head record but coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese cautioned not to underestimate the opponents.
“We faced Laos twice in the Three Nations Cup in March this year and won both. But today a lot of things have changed. Laos is a different side now,” said the 39-year-old Italian. “But we have prepared well. Our players are fit. We are aiming to reach the second round.”
Laos have not won a single match against Nepal in their past four meetings. In the Three Nations Cup—that also involved Bhutan—Nepal defeated Laos 2-0 in the group match and 2-1 in the final. The two sides first met in an international friendly in Vientiane in May 2016, which ended in a 1-1 draw. In November 2016, Nepal edged Laos 3-0 on penalties following a 2-2 draw.
But Laos new coach Kanlaya Sysomvang is looking for redemption.
“We know Nepal. We are well-prepared and we can surprise them,” said Sysomvang, whose side will be carrying experience from the U-23 competitions, including the AFF Championship and AFC. “We are confident we will qualify for the next round.”
Nepal will play away at Laos in the second leg in Vientiane on October 17.
Annese also announced a 23-member final squad, calling up most of the members of the squad that last played against Laos.
Defender Amrit Shrestha and forward Sanjev Bista have been called to the squad for the first time.
Arik Bista and Aashish Chaudhary will line up with Ananta Tamang, Sanish Shrestha and Rohit Chand in the back.
Manish Dangi will support Laken Limbu and Awas Lamichhane in the midfield.
Forwards Gillespye Jung Karki, Dinesh Henjan and Hisub Thapaliya—who were called up for the two friendly matches against Myanmar in September—have been retained in the front line that will be spearheaded by Ayush Ghalan and Anjan Bista.
Nawayug Shrestha and Bimal Gharti Magar—who were in the 30-man preliminary squad—could not make it to the squad. Gharti Magar immigrated to Australia to join the mass exodus of Nepali footballers.
“Our coach has made some changes in the squad. Our team is physically, strategically and technically sound,” captain Kiran Kumar Limbu said. “We have prepared for this match for a long time. We want to win at home.”
Twenty teams are contesting in the 10 two-legged home-and-away ties in the first round of Qualifiers. The winners will join 26 other nations in the second round, which consists of nine groups of four teams.
Each team from nine groups will play home and away. The nine group winners and group runners-up will progress into the third round of the World Cup qualification and also qualify automatically for the AFC Asian Cup.
The advancing 18 teams will then be divided into three groups of six and play against each other on a home-and-away basis. The top two teams from each group of the third round will directly qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2026, while the third and fourth placed team will advance into the fourth round.
The six teams reaching the fourth round will be split into two groups of three teams and play against each other in a single leg. The winners of each group will qualify for the World Cup while the runners-up will advance into the fifth round, where the teams will compete home-and-away and the winners will advance into the FIFA inter-confederation playoff tournament.
Goalkeepers: Kiran Kumar Limbu, Deep Karki, Abhishek Baral
Defenders: Sanish Shrestha, Ananta Tamang, Ashish Gurung, Rohit Chand, Anjan Rai, Aashish Chaudhary, Amrit Shrestha, Arik Bista
Midfielder: Sudip Gurung, Laken Limbu, Awas Lamichhane, Utsav Rai, Kritish Ratna Chhunju, Manish Dangi
Forwards: Anjan Bista, Ayush Ghalan, Gillespye Jung Karki, Dinesh Henjan, Hisub Thapaliya, Sanjeeb Bista