Italy came from behind twice to defeat France in the quarter-finals ©Getty Images

Three-time champions Italy have returned to the semi-finals of the Men’s Volleyball World Championship for the first time in 12 years after stunning reigning Olympic champions France in Ljubljana.

The Italian team came from behind twice to defeat France 24-26, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 15-12 in a thrilling five-setter in the Slovenian capital.

Yuri Romano, Alessandro Michieletto and Daniele Lavia scored 50 points between them as Italy dug deep to overcome France.

Romano top scored with 22 points, while Michieletto notching 14 and Lavia registering 12 in an impressive performance from Italy who have not won the title since their domination in the 1990s.

Italy came out on top in 1990, 1994 and 1998, while their last medal came in 2010 in the form of a bronze.

"It’s amazing, a very good feeling now," said Italian captain Simone Giannelli.

"France have been one of the best teams of the last ten years and it’s so difficult to play against them because they have so many great players.

"I have been facing them for some years now and I don’t think I’ve won more than just a few times.

Co-hosts Slovenia proved too strong for Ukraine in front of their home fans ©Getty Images
Co-hosts Slovenia proved too strong for Ukraine in front of their home fans ©Getty Images

"We had a difficult start, but after we contained their main servers, the match got even.

"I’m very proud of the team.

"We’re young, but we have a lot of power, skills and energy."

Italy have secured a semi-final meeting with co-hosts Slovenia who recovered from a set down to beat Ukraine in Ljubljana.

Ukraine silenced the home crowd with a superb start to take the opening set before Slovenia claimed a tense second to level the match.

Slovenia then found an extra gear as they completed a 18-25, 26-24, 25-19, 25-23 triumph as they eye a first-ever medal.

Klemen Čebulj racked up a whopping 23 points, including three aces, as he steered Slovenia to victory, while captain Tine Urnaut scored 11.

Competition is due to continue tomorrow with the remaining quarter-final matches as Brazil face Argentina in an all-South American battle and reigning champions Poland meet the United States.