(REUTERS) - Uruguay failed to break down Venezuela in a 0-0 draw on Thursday (Oct 5) and were left waiting to bag what looked a certain place at the 2018 World Cup Finals.
The Uruguayans, second in the South American group behind already qualified Brazil (38), are on 28 points and will hope to secure their berth in Russia when they host Bolivia on Tuesday.
The top four qualify automatically and the fifth-placed team go into a play-off with New Zealand.
Uruguay have a goal difference of +10 as opposed to +1 for both Peru and Argentina, who have 25 points after a 0-0 draw in Buenos Aires and could potentially join them locked on 28 points after next week's matches.
If Uruguay were to lose heavily to Bolivia and Argentina, who travel to Ecuador, and Peru, at home to Colombia, were to rack up big wins, they could fall out of the reckoning.
Colombia and Chile, both with 26 points, hold the other two automatic qualifying berths with Peru in the fifth-place play-off spot having scored more goals than Argentina.
Semi-finalists in South Africa in 2010, Uruguay expect to take one of four automatic berths and go into a third successive finals.
It will be the first time in five qualifying campaigns this century that Uruguay have avoided an inter-confederation play-off.
They have reached three finals via two-legged play-offs since 2002, but missed out on Germany 2006 after losing to Australia.