Cameroon and South Africa became the first nations in qualifying to earn berths in next year's World Cup, and four-time champion Brazil stumbled again, losing 1-0 at Uruguay on Sunday.
The United States, meanwhile, lost 1-0 at Mexico, its first defeat in six games in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
The Americans (4-1-1) dropped out of first place behind Costa Rica (4-1-1), which won 3-2 at third-place Honduras (2-2-2). Mauricio Solis scored the go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute at Tegucigalpa. The top three nations qualify in the CONCACAF region.
Cameroon and South Africa join defending champion France and co-hosts Japan and South Korea, who get automatic berths.
At Yaounde, Cameroon won 2-0 at home against Togo, getting goals from Samuel Etoo (27th minute) and Marc Vivien Foe (47th minute). The Indominable Lions (6-1) won Group A and became the first African nation to qualify five times for soccer's premier event.
About 90 minutes later, South Africa gained its second straight berth with a 1-1 tie at Burkina Faso that clinched Group E.
Sibutsiso Zuma scored for the Bafana Bafana (4-0-1) in the 24th minute at Ouagadougou off a corner kick and Alain Nana tied it in the 75th minute.
At Montevideo, Brazil remained winless in three qualifiers this year, giving up a goal on Federico Magallanes' penalty kick in the 33rd minute after Alvaro Recoba was pulled down in the penalty area.
Brazil, the only team to appear in all 16 World Cups, was coached for the first time by Luiz Felipe Scolari, who replaced Emerson Leao following a 1-0 qualifying loss at Ecuador, a 1-1 tie in a home qualifier against Peru and first-round elimination at the FIFA Confederations Cup.
Brazil and Uruguay are both 6-4-3, with Brazil ahead on goal difference, both two points ahead of Colombia (5-4-4).
The top four nations in South America qualify and the fifth-place team meets Australia, the Oceania champion, in a home-and-home playoff for another berth.
Argentina (10-1-2) leads with 32 points, six ahead of Paraguay (8-3-2), seven ahead of Ecuador (8-4-1) and 11 ahead of Brazil and Uruguay (6-4-3).
In Africa, Nigeria (4-2-1) moved into first place in Group B, winning 4-0 at Sudan (3-3) as Liberia (4-3) lost 2-1 at home against Ghana (2-2-2) and dropped to second.
At Omdurman, Yakubu Ayegbeni scored in the 47th and 85th minutes for the Super Eagles, who also got goals from Austin Okocha in the 40th and Victor Agali in the 80th.
With one game remaining, Nigeria is one point ahead of Liberia, which finishes July 14 at last-place Sierra Leone (1-4-1). Nigeria plays at home against Ghana on the final weekend of July.
At Paynesville, Liberia overcame Charles Amoah's goal in the 35th minute and tied the score on Kelvin Zezwe's goal in the 58th, but Liberia went back ahead when Issa Mohammed scored in the 65th.
Liberia president Charles Taylor had visited his nation's team Saturday, promising to personally travel to Asia for the World Cup if Liberia qualified for the first time.
A religious choir visited the Liberian players' hotel Sunday morning, singing hymns to inspire the team.
In Group D, Tunisia (5-0-2) remained in first place with a 6-0 rout of the visiting Republic of Congo (1-3-1) and Ivory Coast (4-0-2), which has a game in hand, remained three points back with a 6-0 win over visiting Madagascar (1-6).