Italy knock out USA
Defending champions knocked out by impressive Italians
Last Updated: 08/08/12 11:30pm
Italy: Celebrate against USA
Italy defeated defending Olympic volleyball champions USA 3-0 at Earls Court to set up a semi-final clash with Brazil, who brushed aside South American rivals Argentina.
Cristian Savani proved to be the United States' Achilles heel, with their previously watertight defence breached 19 times by his thunderous hitting.
America captain Clayton Stanley - in what is likely to be his final Games - did his best to offer some resistance with 16 points, but it was not enough to rescue his team.
Italy's 28-26, 25-20, 25-20 triumph sets them up with a last-four meeting with 2008 silver medallists Brazil, who were equally comfortable winners on Wednesday.
The two-time champions had yet to reach top form throughout the group stages but, with legions of their fans packed into the west London venue, they turned on the style to beat Argentina 25-19, 25-17, 25-20.
Known for their flair and speed around the court, Bernardo Rocha de Rezende's men were presented with a contrasting way of playing in this encounter, with Argentina aggressive, burly and strong.
They are also raw, though, and 2008 runners-up Brazil seized on that, playing them at their own game at the net while retaining their blink-and-you-miss-it passing style, causing chaos in the Argentina defence in the process.
The victory was also underpinned by some typically brilliant defence from libero Sergio and achieved without injured captain Giba.
Fast and furious
Surprise package Bulgaria also marched into the semi-finals with a crushing win 3-0 win over Germany.
They were far too fast and strong for their European rivals, beating them 25-20, 25-16, 25-14 in just 72 minutes.
They now have a last-four tie with Russia to look forward to and that in itself is an achievement after they entered the tournament in a state of disarray when coach Radostin Stoychev quit and forced a number of senior players into retirement.
But that paved the way for Nayden Naydenov to take over and he has led a team of young and hungry players - spearheaded by the brilliant Tsvetan Sokolov - to a first semi-final since 1980.
He scored 22 points as his side dominated all over the court, shutting down Germany's striker player in Gyorgy Grozer at the net as they blocked eight times to three.
Russia's progress came virtue of a 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-21) victory over Poland.
Their serving was crisp, their reception accurate, their sitting quick and their hitting unstoppable. It was rare for a point to last longer than four strokes all night and fortunately for Russia, they were usually the ones playing the final shot.
They were able to stifle the two-pronged Polish attack of Zbigniew Bartman and Bartosz Kurek well enough so that they returned just 22 points between them and the frustration began to show for the pre-tournament favourites.
The serving of Russia was also superior as they won seven points with unreturned deliveries compared to one from Poland. Maxim Mikhaylov was their top-scoring player with 13 - one less than Bartman although it did not matter as he enjoyed far better support from his team-mates.