Poland, Brazil and France lead the race for tickets to the Final Four of the 2021 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League after all scored very convincing wins on Wednesday, Day 7 of the men's competition which continues at the Italian resort of Rimini.
Ngapeth strikes as France bring down Russia in Day 7 of Men's VNL
Poland, Brazil also at 6-1; Iran shock USA; Italy grab third win
Published 11:05, 09 Jun 2021
With Earvin Ngapeth out in full force and scoring a match high of 21 points (including three aces), France brought Russia down in four sets after trailing by one.
Defending champion Russia missed their opportunity to go 2-1 up when they failed to convert three set points in the third - before Ngapeth finished it off practically by himself on a kill and an ace.
Poland also advanced to 6-1 after a fast sweep of Bulgaria in straight sets. The reigning world champions overwhelmed Bulgaria with their serving (8 aces to 1) and blocking (8 to 2).
At 1 hour 14 minutes it was the quickest match so far in the 2021 Men's VNL.
Brazil wrapped it all up with a shutout of the Netherlands, but not without needing an epic comeback in the third to finish it all in three.
Some hard serving by Nimir Abdel-Aziz, including some back-to-back direct aces sent the Netherlands ahead from 18-18 to 22-18. A serve on the net by Wallace de Souza brought the Netherlands to within two points of extending the match.
And then Yoandy Leal stepped up to serve, delivering his own back-to-back aces for a total 4-0 run that had Brazil at match point - though it still took them two more to put an end to the match with Flavio Gualberto blocking Nimir for the last point.
Leal shared top-scoring honours with Nimir on 20 points each. For the Dutchman it meant that he stays on top of the overall best scorers table of the competition.
But Iran pulled off the shock of the day, shutting out USA with a brilliant performance from Saber Kazemi who served all his team's five aces and accumulated a match high of 19 points and Meisam Salehi who attacked for 68% (13/19).
Iran were trailing 21-23 in the third set as USA were desperately trying to get back in the game, but made a 4-0 run to finish it off - match point coming with an ace from Kazemi on Garrett Muagututia
It brings Iran to 5-2, right up there amongst the teams chasing the table leaders, as USA drop to 3-4 and 10th place in the standings.
Slovenia, meanwhile, are also now remarkably on the hunt for a semifinal spot. The 2021 VNL rookies swept Canada on the back of 17 points by Toncek Stern and some rather precise and deciding serving.
Serbia also keep up the chase of the leaders after their four-set win over Germany. It took the Balkan side a little time to get going in the morning match, but once they were off it was a foregone conclusion with three players sharing top-scoring honours on 15 points each - Pavle Peric and Drazen Luburic for Serbia; Linus Weber for Germany.
In what was a head-to-head of the two best blockers of the competition, Marko Podrascanin added another four to his tally and leads the overall list of the tournament, with Tobias Krick in second place after getting three stuffs.
In other Day 7 action, Japan brought their three-match losing streak to an end, defeating Australia in four.
It was winless Australia's second set only in the competition after the one they took from France in Week 1.
Japan captain Yuki Ishikawa was top scorer of the match on 22 points (20/31 for 65% in attack) and Kunihiro Shimizu added another 17 as Japan again set a very fast pace while pressing from the service line.
Italy are on a roll now setting off in Week 3 with yet another win, blocking Argentina 16 times and serving six aces in three sets for their third win in the competition.