Lausanne, Switzerland, December 16, 2019 - Brazil totally dominated pool play in the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, the first men's competition for the season, completing their 15 matches with just one defeat (to Serbia), with two wins and three points to spare over the next closest opponents.
But it was not quite as straightforward as it looks, in the race to make the Final Six of the VNL. It couldn't get more exciting on that closing weekend, as one by one the five tickets to join hosts USA in the finals in Chicago were claimed.
It all came down to the final weekend of pool play, which opened in late June with all five tickets still up for grabs.
Iran were first in, early on the opening day of that last weekend, after beating Serbia 3-1 in Plovdiv and Brazil quickly followed suit without even having played when Poland dropped their first set to Japan.
That left three tickets left unclaimed as Saturday dawned, first in Brisbane where defending champions Russia grabbed one of those with a 3-2 win over Argentina.
France (at 9-4), Poland (9-4), Italy (8-5) and Canada (8-5) were all still in contention for the last two open spots.
France fought hard to earn the first of those with a 3-1 win over Italy that knocked out the 'Azzurri', leaving Canada and Poland still standing.
But for the North Americans it was never meant to be. They fell to an already qualified Brazil in straight sets, allowing Poland in through the back door.
Down below, it was just as intense in the race between Australia and Portugal to avoid relegation.
Both lost on the opening day of the last weekend, but on Saturday at home in Brisbane Australia picked up their third win of the season, recovering from a first set scare to take down bottom-of-the-table China 3-1 while a few hours later in Leipzig Portugal went down to Japan in four to settle the matter.
China finished last, but as a core team of the VNL are immune to relegation.
Portugal will be replaced in the 2020 VNL by Slovenia, who won the Challenger Cup they hosted at home in Ljubljana.
Standings after completion of pool play in the 2019 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League.
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