Uruguay's shock 3-0 defeat by Bolivia on Tuesday has left their fans bracing for what could be a dramatic final four matches in South American World Cup qualifying.
The result meant it was the first time Uruguay lost four qualifying games in a row and the team featuring Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani sit seventh in the table with 16 points from 14 games and in real danger of missing next year's finals in Qatar.
The top four South American nations qualify directly, while the fifth-placed side can advance via inter-continental playoffs featuring three other nations from Asia, Concacaf and Oceania.
¡Últimos boletos disponibles! ✈Brasil y Argentina ya se subieron al avión rumbo a Catar. ¿Quiénes ocuparán los lugares restantes? #EliminatoriasSudamericanas pic.twitter.com/n3XhAD90LR
— CONMEBOL.com (@CONMEBOL) November 17, 2021
Brazil and Argentina have already qualified, while Ecuador is third with a six-point lead over Colombia and Peru in fourth and fifth. Uruguay are tied with Chile on points but have a dismal goal difference of -7.
Uruguay's struggles are not new, with the team featuring in the playoffs in four of the last five editions of qualifying. They reached the World Cup finals three times in that period, failing to qualify in 2006 after losing to Australia.
Although Uruguay have suffered in qualifying, the two-times champions have had good results in the previous three World Cup finals, reaching the semi-finals in 2010, the last-16 in 2014 and the quarter-finals in 2018.
With 12 points still available in qualifying and only four points separating fourth and ninth, the last four games promise plenty of excitement for supporters and opportunities for teams still in contention.
Uruguay return to action on Jan. 27, when they face Paraguay away and host Venezuela on Feb. 1. In March, they host Peru and finish their qualifying campaign away in Chile.
(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Shrivathsa Sridhar)