Race for Final Six too close to call after Week 4 of Men's VNL


Lausanne, Switzerland, June 18, 2018 - All five tickets to the Final Six remain uncollected after Week 4 of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, though USA and Russia are pretty much there. The Americans actually need only one point to claim their berth in Lille, July 4-8, and the reigning European champions one win to make it through without having to count on any other team's results.

France, though, have been the sensation of the week, scoring three wins to top the table - even though they really never needed to, as they're in the finals regardless, as hosts of the Final Six.

But that leaves five more berths to be filled over the last weekend of pool play, with such powerhouses of world volleyball as reigning Olympic champions Brazil, reigning world champions Poland and Rio 2016 silver medallists Italy all in very real danger of crashing out of the competition.

And with Brazil, Poland and Serbia all tied at 8-4, Italy at 7-5 will need to step up their game and hope someone else stumbles, if they're to make it to Lille.

Canada and Japan at 6-6 and even Germany, Australia and Bulgaria at 5-7 are theoretically in with a chance, but it does remain a long shot for any of them.

Australia's Paul Carroll struck 31 times against China in the most incredible match of the week.

Here's the highlights of Week 4:
• France's charge towards the Final Six (which they host July 4-8 in Lille and for which they were already directly qualified) with three wins in as many matches over the weekend, over Bulgaria, Brazil and Canada.
• USA's three wins over Serbia, Poland and Iran which made them the first team (other than France) to practically secure their berth in the Final Six.
• Russia's three wins, all in straight sets, over Argentina, Japan and Germany that has the reigning European champions within one win of a ticket to the Final Six.
• Brazil's three successive defeats, for the first time in six years, to Canada, France and Bulgaria, that puts their chances of qualifying to the Final in jeopardy.
• Poland's three defeats in a row, for the first time in 20 years, to Iran, USA and Serbia, which also puts their qualifying prospects in danger.
• The incredible scoreline in Australia's 3-1 win over China, which (even at only four sets) shattered the records for the longest match, longest set, highest-scoring match and highest-scoring set of the VNL.
• Italy's tournament-high 18 blocks in a single match in their five-set win over Korea.
Aleksandar Atanasijevic's 32 points for Serbia against Iran and his entry at No. 2 in the 'over 30's' list of the VNL.
Paul Carroll's 31 points for Australia in their win over China in four sets. Carroll and Atanasijevic join Italy's Ivan Zaytsev (32 against Brazil) and China's Jiang Chuan (37 against France) in the 'over 30's club'.
• Seven blocks in a single match by China's Liu Libin against Australia and France's Kevin Le Roux against Brazil, which ties the VNL record set by Iran's Saman Faezi on June 8 against China.
• Six aces served by Canada's Graham Vigrass against Bulgaria to tie the tournament-high set by Australia's Lincoln Williams on June 1 against Russia. Both Vigrass and Williams were on the losing sides.

Serbia's Aleksandar Atanasijevic tries to beat the block of Iran's Morteza Sharifi and Ali Shafiei as he scores 32 points in the game.

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