Brazil, France and Japan entered Week 2 of the 2021 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League as the only undefeated teams amongst the 16 top world sides competing at Italy's Adriatic resort of Rimini - but Japan fell to Serbia and it's now only France left after an exhilarating win over Brazil.
France take full control of 2021 VNL
Patry & co stun Brazil in three phenomenal sets; Russia outplay USA; Serbia take down Japan with 17 blocks
Published 10:49, 03 Jun 2021
France are now at 4-0, but there's as many as six teams keeping up the heat at 3-1.
France cancelled eight set points of reigning Olympic champions Brazil until Nicolas Le Goff blocked Wallace Souza and then Flavio Gualberto attacked wide to take the lead on their own seventh.
It was a similar situation in the third - but this time Brazil never got the opportunity to extend the game, France taking their sixth match point after Jean Patry thundered a service and Ricardo Lucarelli was denied a sideout by the net.
Earlier on Day 4 Serbia had played a brilliant match of 17 blocks rallying from a set down to take Japan in four, with Uros Kovacevic bringing home 22 points after attacking for 61% (19/31).
And they promptly scored their first win in the tournament, taking down Germany in five sets, with Federico Pereyra contributing 22 points.
Meanwhile, defending champions Russia outplayed USA in a rematch of the 2019 VNL final in four sets.
Dmitriy Muserskiy, at a towering 2.17m the tallest player in the tournament and top scorer overall at the inaugural VNL in 2018, made a brief first appearance at this year's VNL, starting in the fourth set.
Maxim Mikhaylov scored only 15 points (the match high of 17 coming from Egor Kliuka), but that was enough to see the 2018 VNL MVP take the lead in the overall best scorers table.
Elsewhere, Saeid Marouf took up setting duties for Iran for the first time at this competition and while Canada got off to an early lead, the Asian side turned it around for a four-set win.
In other VNL action on Thursday, Poland defeated Australia, overwhelming the 'Volleyroos' 13-1 in blocking and 11-1 in serving.
And rookies Slovenia continued to impress in the competition with their third win in four games as they shut out the Netherlands and are there amongst the teams breathing down on table leaders France.
With 19-year-old Alessandro Michieletto firing 21 points, Italy grabbed their first victory in the tournament, twice being equalised but persevering for a tie-break win over Bulgaria.
This leaves only the Netherlands and Australia still in search of their first win after four matches.