Hosts Brazil may have automatically qualified, but South America's CONMEBOL is proving to be the most competitive federation outside of Europe.
With fierce rivals Argentina securing a place in the play-offs at least having lost just one of their 13 games, their illustrious list of forwards – Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Carlos Tevez – are likely to be star attractions in next year's competition. The same goes for second and third-placed Colombia and Chile, featuring the likes of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.
Despite scoring 10 times so far, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez – who netted twice at the weekend against Peru before an exaggerated fall led to Victor Yotun seeing red – is less likely to join those names. The 2010 semi-finalists, also boasting Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan and PSG's record signing Edinson Cavani, are on course to be eliminated after taking 19 points from 13 fixtures.
Ecuador, featuring Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia, are dark horses at best, sitting fifth in the group. Peru, Paraguay and Venezuela are all but out of the running, although Bolivia, ranked 64th in the world by Fifa, are the only CONMEBOL nation who cannot mathematically qualify.
Mexico have been a presence at every World Cup since the end of Italia 90, where they were banned for fielding an over-age player in a youth competition. But El Tri, spearheaded by Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, could fail to make the cut for next year.
Since easing through preliminary CONCACAF qualification, winning all six of their matches, Luis Fernando Tena's men now lie in fourth behind Costa Rica, the United States and Honduras. Even three points in their final game, at home to Panama on 11 October, would not be enough to ensure automatic entry to Brazil; they must rely on those above them to slip up. Jamaica, who reached the finals in 1998, are bottom and winless.
African qualifying has been tainted by several sides having points docked and results being overturned. But eight of the 10 group winners in the region have already been crowned, including Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast, 2010 quarter-finalists Ghana and Africa Cup of Nations champions Nigeria.
Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, none of whom have competed at a World Cup before, are amongst the surprise packages. After tonight's set of matches, they will be drawn against each other in five double-legged ties to decide who qualifies. Notable countries that missed out include previous hosts South Africa as well as Morocco and Tunisia, a pair of four-time competitors
New Zealand won all of their nine games in Oceania's qualification tournament. However, those were against relative minnows – New Caledonia, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea – and the All Whites are not yet guaranteed a place in their third World Cup. An intercontinental play-off with the fourth-placed CONCACAF team, currently Mexico, will decide that.
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