Out in front by 11 points sits Brazil, which was handed another spot at the big show when Peru stunned Uruguay in the last round. Beneath the Selecao is a logjam of teams vying for the hotly-contested automatic places between 2nd and fourth, with Argentina occupying fifth and a two-legged match-up against Oceania's top team. As Uruguay will attest, that may be harder than it sounds on paper.
With the action beginning on Friday, beIN SPORTS runs the form guide over each of the nations.
1. Brazil - 33 points
Brazil is the first nation, apart from host Russia, to qualify for the World Cup. On the back of a sumptuous eight-match winning streak, the Selecao have accumulated enough points to guarantee a top four finish and a chance to make amends for their humiliating semi-final elimination from the tournament, in their own backyard, four years ago.
2. Colombia - 24 points
With just four points separating second and sixth, here's where it gets interesting. Of the nations jostling for automatic places, Colombia has arguably the easiest run in, with matches agains Peru away, Venezuela away, Paraguay at home and an already-qualified Brazil at home. Star striker Falcao is in imperious form for Monaco and James Rodriguez seems to have found his groove at Bayern Munich. Colombia should win at least three of those matches to qualify comfortably.
3. Uruguay - 23 points
It's crunch time for Uruguay, which has suffered three straight losses in qualifying, conceding nine goals in the process. The most recent of those for a stunning 2-1 reverse to Peru, which secured qualification for Brazil. All eyes will be on star Barcelona striker Luis Suarez, who's missed his club's first two matches of the LaLiga season with a knee injury. Uruguay's clash with Argentina on Friday will set the tone for both nations' run in, with Oscar Tavarez's men facing difficult trips to Paraguay and Venezuela before finishing at home to Bolivia, by which time, it might be too late.
4. Chile - 23 points
The Court of Arbitration for Sport's (CAS) decision to dismiss two appeals from Bolivia over forfeited matches - for fielding an ineligible player - has kept Chile in the top four. One of the matches in question was Bolivia's 0-0 draw with Chile in September, which was overruled by FIFA, and turned into a 3-0 win for Chile. Had the appeal been upheld by CAS, Chile would have lost the two extra points given for the win and swapped places with Argentina - a point back in fifth. Chile must win at least three of its matches to ensure qualification and with fixtures against Paraguay at home, Bolivia away, Ecuador at home and Brazil away, it would fancy its chances.
5. Argentina - 22 points
If the qualifying ended today, Argentina would be off to New Zealand for a play-off series against the All Whites, having lost 2-0 to Bolivia last time out. It's a stunning predicament for a team that finished runner-up at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and boasts world class attacking talent in the prime of their careers, like Paolo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi. Despite all that talent, the man with the most important job is the one tasked with getting them all to gel together. Enter new manager Jorge Sampaoli - the man who engineered Chile's stunning emergence at the 2014 World Cup. He preaches a high intensity possession game-plan that they'll all need to buy into if Argentina is to get itself out of the hole its dug.
6. Ecuador - 20 points
Two points back in sixth is Ecuador - an enigmatic team that tends to live an die by the performances of captain and Manchester United attacker Antonio Valencia. Back-to-back losses to Colombia and Paraguay have sent Ecuador tumbling out of the qualifying places and into the logjam of also-rans. It doesn't get any easier with matches against Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Argentina standing in the way of it and a spot on the plane to Russia.
7. Peru - 18 points
Peru is still playing catch-up after a slow start to qualifying, where it lost four out of six matches. High points, like drawing at home to Argentina, toppling Uruguay 2-1, beating Bolivia 3-0 away and thumping Paraguay 4-1, have shown glimpses of Peru's potential. Albeit, it's left itself too much to do, sitting two wins outside the top five with matches against Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia to finish.
8. Paraguay - 18 points
Paraguay has arguably the toughest run home with matches against Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Venezuela to round out its campaign. With a negative eight points differential, La Albirroja are well-placed to play the role of 'spoiler'.
9. Bolivia - 10 points
Bolivia is reeling from the CAS decision not to overturn two forfeited matches due to fielding an ineligible player. With ten points it cannot qualify for the play-off stages and will be left to rue a campaign that was punctuated by few highs - the 2-0 win over Argentina a notable one - and beset by low points.
10. Venezuela - 8 points
Venezuela's only points have come from two draws with Peru, a draw with Argentina and a thumping 5-0 win over Bolivia - an all-too fleeting glimpse of what La Vinotinto are capable of.