Argentina went into Tuesday's match in Buenos Aires as the clear favorites over Venezuela, a team that is bottom of the qualifying group in the South American confederation (COMEBOL) and haven't won in 10 games.
However, the 1978 and 1986 World Cup winners, who lost to Germany in the 2014 final, had to come from behind to earn a 1-1 draw. Jhon Murillo gave the underdogs a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute, but just three minutes later Rolf Feltscher knocked a cross into his own net to undo Venezuela's advantage.
Argentina's failure to take all three points left them in fifth place - out of the top four direct qualification spots - with two matches to go.
Turkey stay alive
In Europe, Turkey have blown Group I of European qualifying wide open with a 1-0 win over Croatia. This pulled them to within two points of Croatia at the top of the group - with just two matches left.
Cenk Tosun slammed the ball past Danijel Subasic in the 75th minute after the Croatian goalkeeper had failed to hold onto a fierce drive by Oguzhan Ozyakyup. That gave Turkey the only goal they would need for victory in a packed stadium in Eskisehir.
This leaves the top four teams within just two points of each other with two games left in qualifying. Croatia continue to top the group, ahead of Iceland, both on 16 points, while Turkey and Ukraine are both on 14.
In the other Group I matches, Iceland beat Ukraine 2-0, while at the bottom of the table, Finland beat Kosovo 1-0. It was a home match for Kosovo, but it was played in Albania, as Kosovo does not have a FIFA-approved stadium.
Serbia remain top of Group D after their 1-0 win in Ireland, while Wales remain four points behind after their 2-0 victory over Moldova.
In Group G, Spain hammered Liechtenstein 8-0 to maintain their three-point margin over second-placed Italy, who beat Israel 1-0.
War-torn Syria in playoff spot
South Korea and Saudi Arabia secured the last automatic spots from Asia while Syria earned a 2-2 draw in Iran to reach a playoff against Australia. The winner of that is to meet the fourth-placed team from CONCACAF, the North and Central American confederation, to determine who travels to Russia.
In Oceania, New Zealand drew 2-2 against the Solomon Islands - following the Kiwis' 6-1 win on Friday - to advance to a playoff in which they are to face whichever side finishes fifth in COMEBOL.
pfd/jh (AP, dpa, Reuters)