Poland shut out Iran Tuesday afternoon to mathematically secure their ticket to the Final Four of the 2021 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League where they join Brazil who had already qualified since Monday, as the competition continues at Italy's Adriatic resort of Rimini.
Poland join Brazil in Final Four of 2021 Men's VNL
Slovenia close in; France, Russia, Serbia still in contention; Drazen Luboric fires off 33 points
Published 02:17, 23 Jun 2021
That leaves two spots still open, to be decided on the closing day of pool play, Wednesday with a total of four teams still in contention. VNL rookies Slovenia have come ever closer, but France, Russia and Serbia are also still in the race.
Poland made quick work of Iran on Tuesday with a rotated lineup bagging a straight-set win after putting up a strong block that produced 11 points (three from Bartosz Bednorz).
Jakub Kochanowski attacked for 75% (9/12) and added two aces and a block for the match high of 12.
The win brings the reigning world champions to an unreachable by the other contenders 12-2, though they still trail table leaders Brazil (who are at 13-1). Who will finish first and who second will be determined on Wednesday, when Poland play France and Brazil meet Russia.
Brazil themselves were very thorough in dealing with Germany in straight sets - even with a rotated lineup.
Alan Souza was top scorer of the match on 14 points.
Other than for a few points at the very start of the second set, Brazil were never behind in the score.
And Slovenia remain in third place after yet another impressive performance to take down Japan in straight sets, after coming from behind in the third, and advance to 11-3.
Japan had one set point to extend the match, after Slovenia came back from 19-22, but back-to-back points from kills by Jan Kozamernik for the sideout, Ziga Stern for match point and a huge block by Kozamernik on Kunihiro Shimizu brought the game home.
Japan struggled to solve the problems of Slovenia's block and pressure from the service line, as Toncek Stern and Tine Urnaut shared top-scoring honours with 14 points each for Slovenia.
It is now in their own hands to beat Bulgaria on Wednesday and claim the third ticket to the semifinals without relying on what anyone else does.
France too advanced, reaching 10-4 to head the group of teams tied in fourth place, after a very solid straight-set win over Argentina.
However, France still face the obstacle of Poland in their last match on Wednesday.
Several of their key players again sat out this match and coach Laurent Tillie did not bring on a single substitute throughout the game.
Jean Patry had the match high with 14 points - alongside Argentina's Bruno Lima at 11 the only players of the game to go into double figures as France outserved Argentina 6 aces to none.
But Russia escaped getting knocked out by the skin of their teeth as Italy took the defending champions all the way, forcing a tie-break and then keeping the pressure on until 11-11. At that moment Russia made the break with a block of Ilyas Kurkaev on Luca Spirito, an ace by Dmitry Volkov on Fabio Balaso and a kill by Victor Poletaev following a poor reception by Balaso for a free ball, reaching match point at 14-11 which they converted on their first sideout attempt on a kill by Kurkaev.
There were quite a few unforced errors from both sides (30 committed by Italy, 25 by Russia) and Russia struggled to deal with the Italian serving which produced eight aces - four of them by Mattia Bottolo.
By the narrowest of margins - and despite fatigue and the absence of injured players - Serbia also barely stayed alive after five sets. By now, however, they depend on what Slovenia, France and Russia will do on Wednesday - though they themselves need to beat Canada in the morning of the last day of the round robin tournament.
In other VNL action on Tuesday, Canada defeated Australia with impenetrable blocking of 10 stuffs that the 'Volleyroos' could not find a way around. Ryan Sclater collected the match high of 16 points.
And USA bounced back from the previous night's defeat to Slovenia, with reserves coming on to beat Bulgaria 3-0 in just under an hour and a half - Garrett Muagututia bringing in the match high of 13 points and Bulgaria practically contributing almost a whole set on 23 unforced errors.