Defending champions the United States sealed their spot in the last four with a win over France that eliminated hosts Brazil ©FIVB

Defending champions the United States booked their place in the semi-finals of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) World League final event with a four-set win over France at the Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro.

The result saw nine-times champions and hosts Brazil eliminated at the pool stage as all three teams in Pool I finished with one win and one loss from their two matches.

The Brazilians missed out on points ratio as France squeezed through to the last four, despite suffering their first World League defeat of the season, ending a run of 15 consecutive victories.

Both teams traded points in the early stages of the contest before the American side were able to seize control of the first set, eventually taking it 25-21.

That gave the Americans, seeking a second consecutive title, the initiative and they pressed home their advantage, doubling their lead with a 25-22 scoreline in the second set.

France then hit back as they halved the deficit, claiming a hard-fought third set 26-24 to keep their feint hopes of a comeback alive.

But it proved to be purely a consolation for the French team as the US proved too powerful in the fourth, sealing their last four berth by winning the set 25-20, much to the disappointment of an expectant Brazilian crowd desperately hoping for a France victory.

“I’m obviously very excited that we have the opportunity to continue on in this tournament,” American coach John Speraw said.

“I’m proud of our team and their ability to come back after last night’s emotional loss to Brazil.

“For us to regroup and come back and play that well was really gratifying.”

Serbia got the better of Poland in a marathon five-setter which saw both teams progress to the semi-finals
Serbia got the better of Poland in a marathon five-setter which saw both teams progress to the semi-finals ©FIVB

The US, who finished top of Pool I, will go on to face Serbia in the semi-finals after they claimed a marathon 3-2 triumph over world champions Poland in Pool J.

Serbia’s win ensures both teams qualify for the next round, with Italy following Brazil out of the exit door, again on points ratio after all three teams finished with the same win-loss record.

Poland took the first set 25-18 before Serbia hit back and levelled by winning the second 25-22.

The topsy-turvy nature of the match continued as the Polish side clinched the third set 25-22 but Serbia were able to send the crucial contest into a decider by virtue of claiming the fourth by the same scoreline.

The Serbian team, four-times World League runners-up, edged over the winning line with a 15-13 victory in the final set to keep their pursuit of a maiden title alive.

The other semi-final sees France go up against Poland, with both matches due to take place tomorrow.

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