Iran sweeps Cuba to keep hopes of a quarterfinals appearance alive
Iran men's volleyball can still dream about a possible medal at the Rio Olympics.
After getting swept out of the gym by Argentina on Day 1 of prelims, Iran came back and fought - almost literally - for a point against Poland.
They needed a strong performance Thursday and they got it, sweeping Cuba in three sets (25-21, 31-29, 25-16).
Shahram Mahmoudi led the way for Iran with 19 points and three blocks while Adel Gholami notched 11 points and three blocks and Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi collected 12 points and five blocks.
The sweep gives Iran the fourth spot in Pool B, one point ahead of Egypt. It was also the first Olympic win in Iran's history:
Cuba is all but eliminated after losing nine of the 10 sets it has played in Rio, sitting last in the Pool with zero points through three matches.
Iran is ranked No. 10 in the world, while Cuba sits at 17th.
Russia easily handles Egypt
Eygpt's up-and-down Olympics continued Thursday on the wrong end of a three-set sweep.
On Day 1 of prelims, Egypt lost all three sets to Poland, then came back and swept Cuba before losing all three sets to Russia Thursday morning (25-11, 25-17, 25-9).
The match took barely 50 minutes to complete as the No. 3 team in the world dominated.
It was the first sweep of the Olympics for Russia, which beat Cuba (3-1) on the first day and lost to Argentina (3-1) on Day 2 of prelims.
The sweep gives Russia six points in the preliminary stage, essentially assuring them a spot in the quarterfinals round.
Egypt is ranked 20th in the world.
Poland fends off Argentina in wild sweep
Poland and Argentina battled to the wildest set to date in Rio: A 37-35 final score.
It came in the deciding third set as Poland finally put the finishing touches on a sweep, winning its sixth match point on a challenge.
The set took 38 minutes to complete (almost as long as some entire matches in Rio) and featured 15 service faults and 73 spike attempts between the two teams.
Poland won the first and second sets rather easily (25-21, 25-19) despite 20 service faults between the two opening sets.
The sweep gave Poland the top spot in Pool B with eight points while Argentina held firm at the No. 3 slot with six points.
Both teams look primed to advance to the quarterfinals.
Canada can't maintain hot start to Rio Games
France continued a day of sweeps in Thursday's fourth match, taking down Canada (25-19, 25-16, 25-19).
It was a forgettable match for Canada, which had come out blazing in the Rio Games, sweeping the U.S. on Day 1 and then battling powerhouse Brazil to the bitter end on Day 2.
Canada looked off from the outset, almost starting a fight between the two teams when outside hitter Steven Marshall shoved French star Earvin Ngapeth on the final point in the first set.
The two teams exchanged words briefly, but the situation quickly dissipated.
Ngapeth filled up the box score, notching 21 points, three service aces and two blocks.
France now has six points in three matches, while Canada's loss helps keep them at only three points, giving the U.S. team some hope of retaining the final quarterfinals spot in Pool A.
Italy plows through Mexico with ease
As expected, Italy had no issues with Mexico Thursday night.
The No. 4 team in the world easily dispatched No. 26 Mexico, sweeping in three sets (25-17, 25-12, 25-17).
Filippo Lanza (14 points, three blocks) and Ivan Zaytsev (11 points, two blocks) led Italy to a sweep that lasted barely an hour. No Mexico player notched higher than seven points.
Italy is now guaranteed the top spot in Pool A with nine points, while Mexico brings up the rear in the Pool with nine losses in 10 sets.
The sweep essentially ensures Mexico will not be advancing to the quarterfinals.
USA downs top-ranked Brazil
Team USA absolutely had to have a strong showing Thursday and they got it, taking down the No. 1 team in the world in four sets (25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 25-20).
The three points gives the U.S. squad a strong shot at the quarterfinals now with matches still to play against France and Mexico.
Brazil will play Italy and then France to close out the preliminary stage.