Bulgarians ecstatic with joy after taking down Italy for a berth in the top four of the 2021 Boys' U19 World Championship in Tehran.

Bulgaria stunned defending champions Italy and hosts Iran knocked out 2019 bronze medallists Argentina as both advanced to the semfinals of the 2021 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship where they are joined by Russia and Poland who also qualified after Tuesday's quarterfinals of the competition which continues in Tehran.

Wednesday's semifinals:

● Iran v Poland

● Bulgaria v Russia

All other teams also continue in the competition, in classification matches for all positions in the final ranking.

Both semifinals are rematches of pool play games, when Poland shut out Iran 3-0 and Russia brought down Bulgaria 3-1.

In a quarterfinal worthy of a final, Bulgaria stunned reigning world champions Italy 3-2 (25-27, 27-25, 21-25, 31-29, 18-16) after two hours and 26 minutes of nail-biting play - the longest match of the tournament so far.

Bulgaria were first at match point in the exhilarating tie-break, but Italy had one of their own before a humongous block by Borislav Nikolov on Gaetano Penna gave the advantage again to the Balkan side.

But two match points later, devastatingly for Italy, Alessandro Bovolenta and Filippo Bartolucci failed to communicate and rather unceremoniously let the ball drop in what should have been the simplest of returns that would have kept the defending champions alive.

As anticlimactic as it seemed, the Italian blunder sent the Bulgarians in an ecstatic frenzy of celebrations that they had never experienced before - coach Martin Stoev just falling face down on the floor and laying there while his side's achievement sank in and his players jumped and danced all around him.

Aleksandar Nikolov was Bulgaria's best scorer on 28, but the most outstanding performance came from middle blocker Viktor Bodurov who came off the bench to start in the last three sets and stuffed the Italians six times - of his team's total 18 blocks.

Luca Porro became the third player in the competition to achieve 30+ scoring, with 28 attacks, two blocks and three aces for a total of 33 - but it proved too little to hold off Bulgaria.

Viktor Bodurov

Viktor Bodurov celebrates after coming off the bench to help Bulgaria take down Italy at the 2021 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship in Tehran.

Iran also followed suit with an upset, bringing down Argentina 3-1 (25-21, 24-26, 25-19, 25-11) with a convincing performance.

An impressive attacking performance of 72% (13/18) by Erfan Norouzi who shared the match high of 16 points with teammate Yousef Kazemi were key to Iran's win - as was an overall strong blocking performance that yielded 13 points (to Argentina's six).

Iran could have gone two sets up when they rallied from 20-23 down in the second to draw level, but all they could do was cancel two set points of the South Americans before Nahuel Garcia made the last kill to bring Argentina level at 1-1.

But it was downhill from there on for Iran who overwhelmed their opponents before Argentina completely collapsed in the fourth.

For Russia it was an easier affair and any aspirations the Brazilians may have had in the second set were dealt with swiftly for a 3-0 (25-19, 27-25, 25-15).

Russia came from behind to extend the second set, but still had to cancel one Brazilian set point before taking control of the play to finish it on the second try of their own.

Mikhail Labinskii was in top-scoring form again, with a match high of 23 points - including half of his team's six aces (to Brazil's none) and 72% (18/25) attacking efficiency.

Carlos Rodrigues & Thiery Oliveira

Brazil's Carlos Rodrigues and Thiery Oliveira try in vain to stop Russia's Mikhail Labinskii 2021 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship in Tehran.

And Poland also wrapped it up in straight sets, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 28-26) over Germany - on track to replicate their gold-medal-winning performance of 2015.

The Poles did become a bit complacent as the game wore on, but even in the third they were never properly threatened by Germany despite needing four match points before Piotr Sliwka put it away through the block to close the match.

Poland's block proved a little too much for Germany to handle, as Sliwka himself emerged top scorer of the game on 16 points - just one more than Germany's Laurenz Welsch.


Poland celebrate as they beat Germany to make the semifinals of the 2021 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship in Tehran.

Further down the rankings, for positions 9-16, Egypt came back from a set down to dominate the African derby against Nigeria 3-1 (22-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-23) with 25 points from Zyad 'Osama' Mohamed, while India were led by Tanish Choudhary in their 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-17) sweep of Cuba.

Aly 'Wael' Khalifa - Pascal  Ozokoye & Digil Michael

Aly 'Wael' Khalifa of Egypt goes against the block of Nigeria's Pascal Ozokoye and Digil Michael at the 2021 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship in Tehran.

Thailand did their best but came up short as the Czech Republic marched through to play for positions 5-8 with a 3-1 (25-22, 25-17, 23-25, 25-20) win.

Jakub Klajmon with 23 points in total and 76% in attack (16/21) was by a long shot the top scorer of the game, as the European side outblocked the Asians 13 to 7.

And Belgium survived a bit of a scare in the first, returning to victories on Tuesday with a sweep of Colombia 3-0 (32-30, 25-22, 25-17).

Belgium reached set point in the first at 24-22, but Colombia fought back - though the South Americans never got a shot at taking it, Belgium finally finishing it after a total nine set points.

● All matches are televised live on the Volleyball World YouTube Channel, where they're also available to watch on demand.