The United States, Brazil, Serbia and Italy tonight became the first four teams to book their tickets to Turin for the third stage of the 2018 International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Men’s World Championships.
Co-hosts Italy progressed despite suffering their first defeat after six consecutive wins in this event – which is also being held in Bulgaria - as they lost a gripping match against Russia in Milan’s Forum di Assago.
After winning the first set 25-19, they fell behind after losing the next two 18-25, 21-25, only to draw level by winning the fourth set 25-19.
To the dismay of their supporters the Rio 2016 silver medallists then lost the fifth and final set 15-11.
With one round of matches remaining in round two, Russia trail Italy by four points.
The Netherlands are only a point behind Russia following a 25-19, 23-25, 25-16, 25-13 win over bottom team Finland.
The top team in each of the second round groupings of pools E, F, G and H goes through to the Top Six third round that starts in Turin’s Pala Alpitur on September 26 along with the two strongest runners-up.
Rio 2016 champions Brazil booked their passage as they consolidated their lead in pool F with a 25-22, 25-21, 25-16 win over Slovenia in Bologna’s Paladozza.
Belgium stayed within four points of them with a 28-26, 28-26, 25-20 win over Australia.
The Rio 2016 bronze medallists United States also went through as the only unbeaten side in the competition following their seventh consecutive win - a 25-20, 25-20, 25-18 win over other co-hosts Bulgaria – in the Armeec Arena in Sofia.
But the home hopes remain alive as they are level on points but narrowly in second place ahead of Iran, who were beaten 20-25, 25-20, 15-25, 25-23, 12-15 by Canada.
Pool H is the tightest of the four, with Serbia earning advancement on 17 points following their 25-18, 25-22, 25-22 win over Argentina.
However France regained some momentum by beating second-placed Poland 25-15, 25-18, 23-25, 25-18.
Poland, the world champions, now have 16 points, one more than the French, but they are due to play Serbia in tomorrow’s final round two matches.